Hospice: Telling People I See Their Butts

By Piper Bayard

Someone recently asked me what I do as a Hospice volunteer, and I told her that basically, it’s my job to tell people I see their butts.

Hospice is a service dedicated to providing people with the most comfortable death possible. We tend to physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients who usually have less than six months to live. We call ourselves midwives because each of us has felt that overlap between this life and the next as heaven opens to receive its newest child.

image by I. Craig, wikimedia commons

When I first told my friends I was training for Hospice, I got a number of reactions.

1. Uhmm . . . Better you than me.

2.  Wow. I could never do that.

3.  She’s such a Drama Queen that should be perfect for her. (Said behind my back by a catty belly dancer and passed on to me by another catty belly dancer.)

Most often, though, I got a mystified look and a disbelieving shake of the head with the question, “Why?”

The smartass answer? Because it’s easier to deal with dying people than with my teens. Dying people are a temporary commitment, but my teens want to hang out on my couch and eat my groceries forever.

The real answer? Because when my mother was dying, I was all she had. Since my children were young, I couldn’t be with her at the nursing home more than a few hours a day. I really wished someone could sit with her when I couldn’t. So after she died, I realized that was something I could give to someone else.

One thing I’ve learned from my work is that dying people tell the best stories. They are a hoot. I’ll be talking with a woman who looks like the quintessential grandma. You know, the kind that bakes cakes that really do look like Thomas the Tank Engine and flinches at the word “sex” because she couldn’t possibly have ever had it. No grandma ever has, right?

So I’ll be talking to this grandma with wise eyes and perfectly coiffed hair, except for that messy spot that mushes up against her pillow, and she will tell me some crazy stories from the youth her family never knew she had. She thought she was so smart at fourteen, smoking in the bathroom and blowing it out the window, until she opened the door to find her father standing there. She stole away from home at seventeen to elope with a boy, only to jump out of the car at the Washita bridge in the middle of the night and run all the way home, still single. At forty, she and her friend got a wild hair one day and did a “Thelma and Louise” cross-country, but without the flying leap at the end. Ten days later, their husbands both took them back.

image from “Thelma and Louise”

And then there are the other stories. How her mother and father stopped speaking after that night he came home so late, and the family grew cold and distant. How she regretted not marrying that man she left at the Washita bridge. How her husband didn’t really die of a heart attack like she always told the world, but that he committed suicide, and she never knew why.

As humans, we have a deep need to say, “Yes. I was here. Did you see me?” We need to know we did not grow and bloom and die in a vacuum. We need validation, because parts of us are like our butts. We can’t see our butts. We may feel them, but we need a mirror or a friend to tell us what they look like. As a Hospice volunteer, I give people the gift of letting them know I see their butts. Yes. Those parts of you are here, and I see you.

Today, I’m dedicating this blog to Teri Parks, who was born into a new life almost a month ago. She loved to laugh. Not only was she the best Mrs. Claus ever, but she also threw the social event of the season every 4th of July with a dozen fried turkeys, bubble-blowing guns, horseshoes, music, and 150 of her closest friends. The world is a little colder with her passing.

When I went to visit her on her last day, she had the greatest blessing a soul can earn in this life. A room full of loving family and friends, talking and laughing and remembering with her, confirming for her that, yes. She was here, and they saw her. All of her. And she was beautiful.

Do you have witness in your life who tells you they see your butt? Do you do that for someone else?

All the best to all of you for a week of validation.

The Last First Day

By Piper Bayard

Fall. The time when the years of bottles, diapers, potty training, play dates, eaten refrigerator magnets and beans up noses culminate in that most memorable of days, the First Day of Kindergarten. The day when mothers finally get to have a hot meal and possibly a drink for the first time since before pregnancy. Who care’s that it isn’t even noon?

Photo by Patsy Lynch, FEMA Photo Library, Wikimedia Commons

My son was terrified as I half drug him into the boutique charter school I had carefully vetted in my search for the foundation that would prevent him from making permanent, adult-sized dents in my couch at the age of eighteen. Back then, he still wanted to marry me when he grew up, and he thought digging in the back yard was the perfect career. With a quick hug and my best motherly assurances, I dashed away before he could see the tears streaming down my cheeks.

I spent the next two and a half hours imagining him singing with his class, frolicking at recess, and laughing with new friends. Then I rushed to pick him up, and this is what I found.


My perfect angel was slouched in the hallway, already banished from the classroom and its bounty. Thus began our journey.

In the past eleven years, I have learned many lessons.

  • The fancy charter school in the next town over is not necessarily better than the unremarkable school up the street.
  • Children really ARE just like their parents.
  • All teachers say they want volunteers.
  • Some teachers actually do want volunteers.
  • Most teachers say they want volunteers because it’s District policy, but they actually pray in their hearts that they will never, ever have to talk to a parent outside of parent/teacher conferences because parents really ARE just like their children.
  • If I don’t believe everything my children say about their teachers, perhaps their teachers won’t believe everything my children say about me.

Photo of Schulers Donuts by Cindy Funk, Wikimedia Commons

  • And MOST importantly, exercise liberal Donut Diplomacy. Nothing receives a higher Good Will Return Quotient than a dozen donuts strategically delivered to the office staff periodically throughout the year. Trust me. The good will of the office staff is invaluable at blasting away the inevitable obstacles in the journey, and if there are enough donuts to share with the faculty and administrators, the Good Will Benefits compound exponentially.

My son and I visited colleges this summer. Turns out he is a born engineer, and he’s still out to proove digging is a career.

Today, he and I drove his terrified baby sister to her first day of high school. Our Last First Day on our family’s public school journey. He had some advice for her.

  • Don’t be narcissistic. You’ll stand out in a bad way.
  • If you’re going to play volleyball when high school boys are watching, no little shorts for you. You’ll have to find a way to play it in a burka.
  • Get a thicker skin. When you’re swimming with sharks, don’t bleed.

Together, we booted her out of the car with our love and the comforting lie that the three pounds she gained this week in her  “salty meats therapy session” (aka compulsive salami consumption brought on by starting-high-school anxiety) didn’t really create a muffin top.

On this Last First Day, I do my children the now rare favor of picking up their belongings and planning a special dinner for them. But only after I duct tape the refrigerator door shut on the salami and fight off the weakness in my heart that says a couple of adult-sized dents in my couch might not be so bad.

What have your First Days been like? What are the lessons you’ve learned in your educational journeys?


Goin’ on an Auto Hunt

By Piper Bayard

We’re having a little problem where our son is concerned. The problem is that he isn’t little. In fact, he’s 6’7” and built like a tank. That, in itself, is not a problem, grocery bill aside. The problem is that now that he’s 16, he rightfully wants to drive and he doesn’t fit into any of our cars unless we have the Jaws of Life handy to peel him out. So even though we’d rather drive a car hundreds of thousands of miles just to avoid ever talking with a car salesman, here we are. Goin’ on an Auto Hunt.

This calls to mind some of the fine vehicles I’ve been proud to own. One had doors that only opened from the outside on one side and from the inside on the other so people had to go through the car, not in and out of it. One boiled through the water in the radiator about every 20 miles so I had to travel with a trunk full of water jugs. Another had a front bench seat filled with junk food bags to replace the missing stuffing so people wouldn’t get hurt on the springs when they sat down. 
And don’t even get me started on the ’67 VW Beetle. To this day, I see one of those and think, “Better you than me!”

The first time I bought a car from a dealer rather than a newspaper ad, it was from a friend’s dad. I was so green it never occurred to me that he would soak me. After all, he was my friend’s dad so I didn’t have to do my research, right? It was a great car, but I waaay overpaid. Hubby and I refer to that as the Daddy Fix Me Price. It relieves us of responsibility, but only at a cost.

After a couple of unremarkable used car purchases that didn’t leave us feeling completely fleeced, I redeemed myself for the Daddy Fix Me car. It was our first new car, and I was determined to do it right.

I saw it on the dealer’s lot. A beautiful, moderate sized SUV with AWD for mountain roads and snow. It was even red with standard transmission. Perfect! I looked inside. I sat in it, played with it, let my son crawl around in it, and I walked away without leaving my address or phone number.

Unbeknown to the salesmen at the dealership, I stalked that car for a month. I researched prices, I knew what every competitor would offer me, and I knew a place with a decent non-negotiable price for a similar car that wouldn’t waste my day and my brain space playing good cop/bad cop. I even arranged financing from an alternate source. But more, the car gods were with me. The night before I went in, I saw a late night ad by the car lot that said they would beat any competitor’s price by $500.

I got up the next morning and declared to the woman in the mirror, “It will be mine. Yes! It will be mine.” Then, armed with a pre-written check for $500 under their competitor’s admittedly fair price, with tax, I walked into the first salesman’s office I saw, put the check on his desk and said, “That car. Take it or leave it, and no, I’m not paying handling fees.”

After feeble attempts to jack me up, the salesman took the check and very seriously asked me to never tell my friends about our deal. He didn’t want to meet anyone I would send him. We now have almost 200k miles on that car.

So I’ve done it the wrong way, and I’ve done it the right way. Who knows what I’ll learn this time.

I’d love to hear your car buying stories and your car disaster experiences. When have you done it wrong, and when have you done it right? What lemon cars have you had?

I could also use your input, please. What cars do you know of that have the best leg and head room? Please only recommend cars that start every time you turn the key. I am a mom, after all.

All the best to all of you for stalking your prize.

Success Lessons from Parker the Drama Dog

By Piper Bayard

Meet Parker.

We got Parker from the Humane Society a couple months back when I had a feeling there was a dog waiting that would be a perfect fit for our family. Parker had been taken back twice because he doesn’t play well with others. He almost completely ignored us during our initial visit, and he was about twenty pounds overweight. Perfect, right? Yes. We saw it that way, too.

Once we got him home, we also discovered he was terrified of everything from the vacuum sweeper to the guinea pig to the staircase. But after three days and two pounds of ham to coax him up the stairs, he relaxed into a self-contained, happy pup that blended well with the family. And the best part? He didn’t seem to shed much at all.

Then came the bait and switch. We got back from Vancouver Island to find Parker had started to shed while we were away. In fact, it seemed to be his new mission in life.

In a heartbeat I had dog brush in hand and was calling our little fluff factory to the back door. But he would have none of it. Every time I stroked him gently with the dog brush, he yelped and snapped. I couldn’t even pluck away the loose tufts of hair without him acting like I was ripping off appendages.

So I had a bit of a dilemma on my hands. Traumatize the dog, or allow him to coat us and all of our belongings in his tresses?

DD and I decided to take Parker for a walk and contemplate the situation. While I glared at the dog and DD laughed about the matter, she started flipping the rope leash up and down along his hind end, coaxing off chunks of fluff and leaving his tuchus looking like a topographical map of the Rocky Mountains. Parker was so distracted by all of the sights and smells around him that he didn’t notice.

That made me bold. Every time he stopped to sniff some marvelous delight, I ran forward and started grabbing out handfuls of hair. By the time we finished the walk, it looked like we’d shaved a bear on the path, and Parker didn’t notice or object once. Clearly, when it came to helping him shed, Parker was a drama queen.

The next day, I took the brush with me on our walk and encouraged Parker to sniff every rock, plant, or animal trace we crossed as I left a trail of dog hair tumbleweeds to mystify joggers through the day.

I decided to push it and took him out on the porch at home and continued my work. Without a walk to distract him, he began yelping and snapping again, but this time, I knew I wasn’t hurting him so I gave him a firm ‘no’ and ignored his fussing. He soon settled down.

Now, Parker still hates brushing, but he tolerates it, and I don’t have to feel like a tribble every time I lie down on the couch. And the best part? After I took charge and told him to knock off the drama, he trusts me more than ever, and the new problem is not tripping as he  walks on my heels all day.

Success lessons? Some fears are nothing but bad habits, and discipline will save the day when indulgence fails.

What does your pet teach you about success?

All the best to all of you for knowing when to take charge.

Things I Learned on Vancouver Island

By Piper Bayard

That’s it. I’m in love with Canada. Genuinely a land of Northern efficiency and Southern hospitality.

We spent most of the past two weeks on Vancouver Island, in Victoria and on the shore outside of Sooke. The full moon reflecting off the Strait of Juan de Fuca was worth the trip in itself. The best of both civilization and the wild in a land where vast tracts of mountain forest drop straight down to the sea.

I learned many things in this place where earth, sky and water converge.

This calls for a list.

Things I Learned on Vancouver Island

  1. It takes approximately 39 hours for Americans to add “eh” to their vocabularies.
  2. Poutine (French fries with gravy and cheese curds) is a food group.
  3. Residents of the Vancouver Island coast have driveways so steep you could use them to teach raccoons to climb trees.
  4. The ocean can transform from surreally perfect glass to “Oh, hell! How’d I end up on Deadliest Catch?” in approximately 30 minutes.
  5. The waves of an incoming tide will mesmerize you like online games and, like online games, can leave you wondering where you put the last five hours of your life.
  6. Seeing a killer whale up close in the wild is worth every bit of the sandblasting rain you endure to get to it.
  7. A fifteen pound halibut can win two throws out of three against a six foot woman.
  8. Snorkeling in Victoria Harbor is an excellent argument for snorkeling in the Caribbean.
  9. The friendly common greeting and farewell of Canadian island children is to moon arriving and departing guests as the ferry passes.
  10. Canadians do not consider it friendly for ferry passengers to moon the children in return.
Overall, it was a pocket of time with my family so precious that a part of me will always live there. Click on the tab Vancouver Island 2012 above for a few of my favorite photos. And yes. It was overcast most of the time, but that didn’t bother this desert refugee one bit.

Have you ever been to The Great White North? What fun and interesting things have you learned in your travels?

I’m happy to say that HOLMES IS BACK! We will be publishing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while we work on our spy thriller, Blood Truffles, so keep an eye out for more current events, history, and side-stitching sarcasm.

All the best to all of you for a week of beautiful moons.

One of the Many

By Piper Bayard

My family will gather at the graves today. As I think on The Ones Who Have Gone Before, echos of laughter, adages, card games, and dipped chocolates bring them to life from the mists of my memory. Each of them played a part in making me who I am.

Of them all, though, there is one in particular who I am remembering this Memorial Day Weekend. I’ve heard that we often forget what people say and do, but we never forget how we feel when we are with them. When I remember my cousin, Lee, I feel loved, safe, and happy.

I said good-bye to Lee at the airport in 1967. The year America’s graduating class went to Viet Nam. I was three years old. I called him Spook because he was born on Halloween. He called me Skunk. Probably because I was three years old.

I didn’t understand much about what was happening over there or what those little silhouette figures of bodies were on the evening news each night. But I did understand how happy we all were when he came home.

For him, the war was over except for whatever memories he would need to resolve. He married a beautiful young woman who also radiated love, safety, and laughter. His foundation for a good life was well-laid, and the world was in front of him.

When we got the phone call shortly after their marriage, it was the first time I ever saw my father cry. “He’s not dead, yet,” he said as he hung up the phone, and my mother took him in her arms.

I ran to my friend’s, and we hid in the bushes behind her house, trying to make sense of what it meant to die of cancer. It was only a few months until the funeral. I wouldn’t know for years that it was most likely due to the Agent Orange.

Somehow, I ended up with his black mohair sweater. I probably pulled it out of a box destined for Goodwill. I needed some token. Some cocoon that would wrap me in the love, safety, and happiness that I always felt when I was with him. Unless my family reads this blog, they will never know my daughter’s middle name is in his honor.

We hear a lot about Special Forces, Navy Seals, and Green Berets, but most of our veterans are none of those. They are like Lee. Men and women who answer their country’s call. They do their duty, often risking their lives. Often losing them. The ones who survive grow and change, collect their scars, and move on as best they can without any lauds or fanfare.

To all veterans, thank you for your service. Like the faces from the mists of my memory, I would not be who I am and have the life I have without you.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Today, I’m heading to Vancouver Island with my family, leaving our house sitter, Parker, in charge of our turtle and guinea pig for the next two weeks. Since I will have no telephone and only spotty internet, I wish you well now. Holmes and I will return on June 10. Have a great two weeks!

All the best to all of you in building memories of love, safety, and laughter.


Camp Cheerful Summer Camp for Adults

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Inspired by the HAMAS and UN Summer Camps in Gaza, we here at Bayard & Holmes are asking, “Why should Palestinians have all the fun? For that matter, why should kids have all the fun?”

Summer should be a time for fun and relaxation for everyone. There are always a few folks around, though, who will do their best to prevent any fun or relaxation from occurring. It’s those people we had in mind when we conceived the idea of Camp Cheerful.

Situated in a Caribbean location of incomparable beauty and perfect climatic ambiance at the eastern tip of Cuba, with swimming and diving opportunities in Guantanamo Bay, Camp Cheerful is the perfect getaway for those fun-challenged individuals in your life.

So stop for a moment and think. Who has taken a head start on ruining your summer? Is it a hard-drinking relative? A thoughtless, annoying neighbor with three barking dogs and teenagers who party until two a.m.? Perhaps there’s someone in your professional life who doesn’t even wait until summer to spread the agony of her own miserable existence, insisting on sharing the “joy” with everyone around her. Camp Cheerful is just the place to send them to ensure happiness this summer (for you).

All campers will be cheerfully greeted by our Certified Happiness Specialists. We’ve recruited some of the finest soldiers and marines with experience in great vacation resorts like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, and East Los Angeles. These healthy and enthusiastic men and women are well prepared to assist our campers in achieving life-altering experiences.

For your summer enjoyment, all campers’ activities will be live-streamed on the Internet. Our Certified Happiness Specialists have prepared several thrilling activities guaranteed to keep our campers busy all summer long. We’ve updated some of the more traditional, boring summer camp activities to make them far more interesting, and we’ve created a few completely original activities, as well.

After enjoying a morning of rigorous exercise and fasting, the campers will be treated to a thrilling round of bobbing for apples. To make this game a little easier for tired campers, we’ve attached a five pound diving weight to each apple, allowing the apple to settle conveniently at the bottom of the five foot barrel. Our loving camp staff will assist each camper in entering the barrel after securing their wrists with the lanyards the campers wove themselves in arts & crafts class. What could be more cheer-inducing and fulfilling than using their own handiwork in such a practical application?

Many children have memories of the humiliation caused by their failure to ever hit the target on the archery range in summer camp. To avoid that emotional distress, our campers will reverse roles and will act as targets as our staff demonstrates proper archery technique. For safety, each arrow tip will be replaced with steel blunts, and campers will be required to remove all eye wear.

And what summer camp would be complete without a broad array of aquatic activities? Like any good summer camp, we stress safety first. Campers will learn important water survival techniques, such as how to use chicken blood on their swimming trunks as a shark repellant, how to safely tread water for four hours over sharp coral reefs, and how to spend a long day of swimming in the bright Caribbean sun without relying on the crutch of sunscreen. And don’t worry. No life vests allowed!

After a scrumptious lunch of cold gruel and a thirst-quenching draught of water from the local sacred spring of Baca Podrida (translation “Rotting Cow”), the staff will choose the Distinguished Camper of the Day, who will then serve as the star in a thrilling round of Pin the Tail on the Jackass. Given the larger size of some of the campers’ rear ends, the players will be allowed to use nail guns, rather than thumb tacks, to ensure the firm placement of the tails.

Most campers look forward to horseback riding as part of their summer camp activities. In spite of the lack of horses in Guantanamo, we have no intention of disappointing our campers. So we’ll be saddling up the campers for competitive steeplechase exercises. To help encourage those young foals to do their best in clearing those quicksand bogs and barbed wire fences, the “horse” that finishes last will be subjected to an extra round of Pin the Tail on the Jackass.

During our evening campfire time, campers will learn thrilling new songs that they will likely remember the rest of their lives. We’ve contracted with some of the world’s leading songwriters (us) to come up with unique songs that our campers will cherish for a lifetime. A Hundred Broken Bottles of Beer On My Head; Row, Row, Row Your Boat Across the River Styx; I Wanna Go Home (But They’ll Kill Me If I Try), and the trademark Camp Cheerful Song, If You’re Happy When You Suffer, Clap Your Hands.

Please notify us now of who you’re intending to send to Camp Cheerful this year, and we will reserve our special 3’ x 7’ dog kennels luxury suites for their vacation pleasure. Enroll your camper today!

Who would you like to send to Camp Cheerful this year and why?

Aunts and Uncles Day – A New Bayard & Holmes Holiday

By Jay Holmes

After dealing with so much grim material of late, like Iran and Syria, I needed to write about something more cheerful.

In the USA, we celebrate Mothers Day on the second Sunday of each May. We celebrate Fathers Day on the third Sunday of each June.

At some point over the years, these holidays have taken on gift giving traditions. I can remember many of the gifts my sons gave me on Fathers Day.  All of them are handmade, and I still have them. I keep them where I can easily see them when I am home. They bring me fond memories of two cute boys who are now grown and no longer sit in my lap. They stopped asking for horsey rides a long time ago, and the store bought stuff that they and my wife shopped for with the best of intentions has been long forgotten.

Each year on Mothers Day, I remember my mother, and I wonder what we might do with that day if we’d had a little more time together. I also remember my Aunt Lily. She was a remarkable woman. When I was a child, she always ignored the adults who were entering her house until she had greeted me with warm affection and a long hug. In all of the years I knew her, I never received a negative word from her.

Every year on Fathers Day, I find myself thinking about one particular uncle. I don’t just think about him on Fathers Day, I think about him frequently. He was a special guy, and I was lucky to have him. It occurs to me that we have no special day to commemorate those special aunts and uncles who make a difference in our lives.

Piper and I have decided to declare March 12 to be National Aunts and Uncles Day. Unlike the nominally invented Aunts and Uncles Day an unknown person on the internet designated in July, our National Aunts and Uncles Day should involve no gift giving beyond your love and devotion, and no cash beyond the small cost of buying paper and a pen to make a homemade card. Store bought cards and gifts will not be part of the tradition.

In preparation for Aunts and Uncles Day on March 12, I want to share a few memories of my Aunt Lily today, and of my Uncle Tony on Sunday. I hope that you readers will, in turn, share memories of the special aunts and uncles in your lives.

La Tia Mia

My Aunt Lily was from Puerto Rico. She had married my mother’s brother, Ricardo. Ricardo and I got along well. I credit him for being one of my many relatives who saw to it that I was well steeped in the art of sarcasm, and in the advanced ability to render huge insults in Spanish without cursing.

One Christmas, when I was ten years old, I thanked my uncle for marrying my aunt. He was surprised and didn’t quite know how to respond, but he smiled and said, “I love you, Kid.” I told him I loved him too. He died of a massive heart attack the next day. I was glad I had told him.

Everywhere my Aunt Lily went, she brought her lighthearted laughter. She could joke about anyone while offending no one. Everyone laughed when Lily was around. Even when people were deeply concerned about problems in their lives, she would cheer them up effortlessly.

In the dullest of settings and moments, Lily could find and point out hilarity from amongst the mundane. She never missed spotting beauty wherever she found it. She would point out a nice set of lace window curtains or a nicely made rocking chair. Things I might have missed if she had not been there teaching me to see beauty. For her, the world was a source of comedy and a giant art museum.

She could always see past the worst to find the best. Whenever I visited her, I accompanied her through her neighborhood on visits so the many neighbors she was close to and who loved her could get a first hand update on what her nephew was doing and how much he had grown in the months (later years) between visits. I always took great pleasure in how my aunt’s neighbors greeted her. They went out of their way to treat me like a close friend, simply because I was Lily’s favorite nephew.

At a young age, it was clear to me that my aunt was a special woman of great importance. She had earned the trust, love, and admiration of so many people in her community. I felt privileged to walk with one of the world’s great and important people when I would accompany her in my youth. I feel that way still.

Now it’s your turn. Who are the special aunts, related or not, who live in your hearts?

Pilgrim, As You Journey

This is the week of the mass American pilgrimage. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is the day we Americans travel home. It is the one holiday we all share, no matter what our religion. The day when we gather as families.

Some of us will have genuinely happy reunions. The stuff of Norman Rockwell.

image from Office of War Information 1942, wikimedia commons

Most of us will have mixed days. Something we have to hassle with a bit. Perhaps a family fuss getting out the door, and then putting up with Uncle Freddie’s bad jokes and Aunt Marge complaining that the dressing is dry. But once everyone settles in for the football, it’s all good.

For some, though, Thanksgiving can be a gut-wrenching ordeal. The hassles are extreme, and the holiday becomes an endurance test of dysfunctional abuse that demoralizes us and convinces us that we deserve nothing from life or ourselves but the crumbs of inadequacy, malcontent, and failed expectations.

Most people who persist in that brutal existence do so from habit and from the fear of change. But a brave few walk away into the unknown with the conviction that whatever lies ahead, it cannot be worse than the hell they left behind. They quit showing up for the beatings.

If you are having joyful reunions this week, we celebrate with you. Such family experiences are the source of strength that sustains us through life’s turmoil.

If you are biting your tongue in between hugs and laughter, we admire you for your tolerance and commitment. Such commitment is the foundation of civilization.

If you are suffering, our hearts and prayers go out to you in the hopes that one day, you will get out.

And if you are one of the ones who walked away, we salute you. You will be alone this week, or with close friends, or with people you barely know who have unfamiliar traditions. If you have persevered down your lonely path, you may even be with a new family by now, making Norman Rockwell jealous.

We know what it took for you to walk away, and we count you as our family. Your “not being there” didn’t come for free, and we honor the price you pay each day. It never gets easy, but it does get better. This song says it all.

Wherever you are in life’s pilgrimage this Thanksgiving, Holmes and I wish you peace. We will see you back here on Monday, November 28.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes