March 31

This is 28

Twenty-eight is
the thrill of a night out
fading to a mental countdown of “when will we be home?”

It’s a face buried in chunky legs
And nuzzled in a small neck
And zerberted on a belly

It’s morning naps
And nighttime feedings and
“When will my clothes fit again?”

It’s learning
the fierce beauty
and love of motherhood

Its waiting for, then marveling at “firsts”
And watching the changing of the guards,
“Dad” and “Mom” and “grandparents” and “babies” and “dogs”

It’s struggling to accept the ever-present wonders
“Is this working?” or
“Are we doing it right?” or
“What does Google say?”
(And regretting the pursuit of question three)

It’s muddy postpartum miles
To show myself that
I’m mom, and
I’m me

It’s the year of
Five years together,
And four years on New Street,
And three years married
Learning to balance
our “now” with our “next”
while navigating: how can we love,
And share,
And pay attention?

I can stop and linger at
A feeling of rest
The sound of her laugh
The first warmth of the spring sun

Twenty-eight is being grateful for
Morning eggs
And funeral home lunches
And days spent at home

It’s working on
“that was important,
But this matters more.”

This is 28.

March 30

Saved

I adjusted my position in the worn red chair, glancing back and forth from the monitor to its right, where a handwritten Bones on Black Spruce Mountain essay hung on a black clip.

“No need to type it,” Mrs. Howrigan had said to our fifth grade class, reminding us that it was due next week. It didn’t matter. Though my brain hadn’t yet developed the ability to formulate thoughts in typeface, there wasn’t a question in my mind regarding the overachieving path that lay before me. I spent the afternoon putting the finishing touches on the handwritten essay, moving it to the black clip and powering up our 1990s-era computer to the opening Microsoft melody.

My eyes scanned the keyboard carefully for each letter, looking up every few to keep myself on track. I loved the perpetual search-and-find, excitement mounting when I could see visible progress in the form of a crowd of letters and words. How many more until I fill the screen? I’d challenge myself. Easily motivated, I’d declare victory when I’d have to use the sidebar scroll to navigate through the typed mass of Times New Roman. Several hours passed. No one was home yet– it was the first year Celsey and I could come home off the bus alone. If I finished this essay, I told myself, I’d have the rest of the afternoon to read on the couch, with the freshly printed pages tucked in my take home folder.

I rotated my essay pages under the black clip, arching my back before settling back into the red chair for page four. I straightened my right leg, stretching out the sleep.

Bzzzz-ump.

I looked at the black screen staring back at me, then down at my knee that had bumped the power button on the tall towered hard drive.

Silence.

My stomach dropped as I made sense of my fate– a nonexistent, now-deleted essay. Tears spilled over my eyes, making my hanging handwritten pages blurry through my vision. A hard lump formed in my throat, grieving all those hard-earned Times New Roman lines that were now ripped out from under me.

The front door clicked shut, Dad dropping his work bag near the door. “How was your day?” he greeted, not noticing that my fifth grade world of unnecessary effort and accolades was crumbling before his eyes.

“It’s gone!” I cried, leaving him to piece together the story– figuratively and literally, as he volunteered to retype it for me with his super fast, stare-at-the monitor skills. After providing both comfort and a solution, he insisted on only a quick teaching moment this time. I’d carry it into our current auto-save, Google docs futureworld. It could double as a reminder to stop, notice your wins and appreciate moments of laughter, saving them for those days when all you managed was a power-down: “Cal, always save as you go.”

March 29

Lost at IBM

I could see the top of my dad’s Subaru over the next hill. I dialed his cell number, tracking my eyes back and forth from the phone to the road. He picked up on the second ring.

“Dad, I’m quitting,” I declared, despite the fact that I was en route to my second day on the job at IBM.

“If you want to make that decision, fine. You need to at least go in and tell them yourself.”

Silence. Sniffle.

“I will… tomorrow.” More silence. “You don’t understand how awful it is!”

A long sigh. “Cal, I’ve worked there for thirty-two years. I know yesterday was hard. But you’re kind of throwing me under the bus here,” he reminded. My dad was the biggest reason I had secured a decent-paying summer job at IBM after my freshman year of college. With a guaranteed full time schedule and an hourly rate higher than any of my seasonally-employed friends, I thought I had it made… that is, until it actually started.

My first day had begun with a tour around the test floor, a wide expanse of buzzing machines and alphanumeric signs I didn’t understand. I tried to keep the sole of my sneakers from catching on the long white lab coat that grazed my ankles. “You won’t be out here much,” Denise, my supervisor said. She waved her badge in front of a card reader. After the click, she walked me into a small room with tall shelves lined with small spaceship-looking contraptions. “You’ll be here, in front end hardware. We call it FEH.” The sound of the shutting door led to three heads snapping in our direction. “This is Callie,” Denise introduced. “This is Penny and Linda and Bruce.” They doled out a few waves and half-hearted smiles.

“Hi everyone,” I said, my voice barely audible above the droning of machines coming from the open window to the test floor.

“Bruce is going to train you.” Bruce got up from his computer chair. He had a matching white coat and stuck out his hand.

“Hi,” I said again.

Bruce launched into his training materials, seeming straightforward but proud to be placed in this role. “Welcome to FEH!” He gestured as if behind him was a magical land. “We prepare hardware for the tools on the test floor when people submit orders. We also fix and clean the hardware so the tools are always up and running.”

At this point, I was craving any background information or context that would help clarify the larger picture. Hardware for what? What do those tools do? What is the goal of this place? I thought of my Dad’s years here– I knew he worked somewhere near this room, maybe even on the test floor. Even though he’d had the same job for my entire life, I could not explain how he passed his days or what he was actually paid to do.

We both sat down in front of a gray workbench, complete with a line of handheld metal gadgets, a microscope and mechanical trinkets I had never seen before. He reached for one of the small spaceships– the same ones that lined the shelves. “Let’s start by cleaning probes, since that’s most of our job.”

He placed the tiny spaceship between us. “Okay, grab the Phillips head screwdriver.”

I swallowed hard and rubbed my hand sweat on the jeans beneath my lab coat. My eyes jumped down the line of tools, hoping Phillip would reveal his head. I grabbed a green handle, hoping that I’d won this impromptu game of toolbox roulette.

“That’s not a Phillips screwdriver,” he said flatly. “Do you really not know?” I longed to latch on to any sign of humor in his voice, ready to throw in a self-deprecating joke… but there was none.

“I don’t really know a lot about tools.” My whole mouth was dry now. And I had to be here for 12 hours?

“This is as basic as it gets.” He looked down at the spaceship, seemingly disappointed with the short straw he must have pulled to get this summer hire in FEH. He grabbed the orange handle as my face turned red and started to unscrew the spaceship, which, as he pointed out, was “actually called a probe.”

After that, I struggled to conjure up long-buried high school microscope knowledge, angry at myself for needing his help to find a clear view of the miniscule probes we were supposed to clean. He grabbed the “flathead screwdriver” prematurely, apparently unconvinced I could use context clues to infer it was the blue one.

Twelve hours passed slowly– as did painstaking introductions (for me and Bruce) to unfamiliar hardware and a mechanical language that was utterly foreign to me. Always an overanalyzer, I sensed annoyance and exasperation in Bruce’s every move, frustrated that with me, he had to begin not at square one, but square negative seven. The silence of the other two front-end hardwarers, Linda and Penny, conveyed disbelief and a desire to commiserate as soon as I left for my break. How would I ever be able to contribute to the small world that was front end hardware? Through it all, I longed to interject: I am somewhat smart… just not in this!

Which led me to this moment, driving to my second day of work and convinced I could not take another day of blatant inferiority and helplessness. I turned my car around in the Steeple Market parking lot and headed toward home, where no one would ridicule me for knowledge I didn’t know I was supposed to know. Where someday– just not today– I’d have Dad teach me about “basic” tools. My relief was interrupted with a phone vibration. It was Mom.

“Callie, turn the car around.” Dad had called her, seeking the backup resources of Mom– the get-it-done, stop-feeling-sorry-for-yourself half of my parents. I pulled over once again on Buck Hollow Road, the deep knot in my stomach telling me she was right. “Give it a week, then quit if you want to.”

As most stories end, Mom was right. A week turned into two, and two turned into a month. A month turned into two full summers at IBM, tucked away in that front-end hardware room: a haven that featured kindness and humor from Bruce, Linda, and Penny after a less-than-stellar first day (“remember when this was you?” they said, holding hardware upside down); long, luxurious bouts of internet browsing in between hardware orders; and the eventual understanding that there are, in fact, different kinds of screwdrivers.

March 28

A helpful strategy

Note: Current classroom parents could be reading my slices via Twitter. The student featured in this slice is not in my current or recent teaching context– so, I feel confident sharing this while maintaining the student’s anonymity. In an abundance of caution, I’ve changed a few identifying details.

I looked up at her face, seeking signs of understanding or at least contemplation. Her blue eyes looked up at me, as if waiting for my words. I wanted her to say something. “Can you share your perspective?”

She shook her head, her eyes almost looking through me, then glanced back toward the closed laptop on her desk. Writing workshop was over, and we had agreed we would have this discussion when the student was calm– with the ultimate goal of processing and repairing after a challenging behavior an hour before. The class had transitioned to PE, and her and I were left to sort through feelings, choices, and logical consequences. I started again.

“It looked like you were frustrated. I also know that we’ve talked about and practiced other strategies for showing those feelings. The way you chose to react was hurtful to me, and it wasn’t one of those strategies. I would never, ever use those words with you. You know you can always walk away from a situation by taking a break in our space or Ms. Johnson’s classroom. Or, you can use the sentence starters to say what you need in a calm and clear voice. Or, there are tools in your desk to–”

I stopped, noticing the student had started a continuous hand movement in the meantime.

“What are you doing?”

She looked back at me, continuing the hand motion while the rest of her body sat motionless. Her palm flapped open and closed, open and closed, her thumb repeatedly tapping the row of her other fingers. My mind tried quickly to piece together a semblance of meaning. Wasn’t this the first part of the chicken dance? Was it a universally-recognized gesture for “blah, blah”? Probably not– it was usually accompanied by mockery or an eye roll, and the student in front of me had a genuine expression, her lips pursed in a concerned line while her hand still motored open and closed.

“I don’t know what that means.” I conveyed my confusion again.

“Sometimes,” she began in a serious tone, breaking her silence for the first time in the one-sided discussion, “I find it helpful to use this strategy to show people they’ve been talking a long time.”

March 27

Slime rat struggle

“I have an idea!” I exclaimed to Celsey, a young and impressionable five year old who was forever at the ready, waiting for her older sister’s entertainment suggestions. We could hear the hum of the treadmill in the background, the soundtrack of Mom’s after-school routine. Celsey looked at me expectantly. I ran up to our bedroom and grabbed the recent gem Celsey had scored from the coin machine outside Hannaford: a large slime rat, red and jello-looking. With Mom’s treadmill buzzing just around the corner in the kitchen, we were left to find a quiet and noncontroversial activity. Rat-slinging, I decided, fit the bill perfectly.

Celsey almost protested, showing maternal protection toward her hard-earned slime. She reached her hands out as if to lay claim.

“No, watch this.” I retracted slime rat away from my sister’s grabs and looked toward the sky-high cathedral ceilings of our family living room. With a squat and an upward thrust, slime rat sailed up toward the white slant. Splat! The rat smacked hard against the ceiling. Rrriiiiiiippp! Slime rat’s edges slowly peeled away from the ceiling, dropping down fifteen feet into our open arms, waving and jostling for the catch. We laughed as I grabbed slime rat and Celsey fell to the ground.

“My turn now!” Celsey took slime rat and up he went, catapulted up, up, and away. Splat! RRrriiiiiip! We shrieked with laughter, pushing and jumping while we waited for his descent. We heard mom singing mid-run.

This routine– basically a stickier, indoor rodent version of the playground favorite, “500”– continued as Mom finished her last mile. Our giggles continued as we put forth Herculean effort to be the first to catch slime rat, ensuring he never touched the floor. I palmed slime rat and threw him once more. Spplllllatttt! Our laughs faded to silence as we stared up at the ceiling, waiting for him to do his part.

We stared. And waited. And stared.

Our eyes got big. And our nervous stares turned toward each other. Slime rat towered above, taunting us as the ultimate winner. His edges showed no signs of “rriiiiiip.” We waited a bit longer, sending up urgent prayers to slime rat as we heard the treadmill slow to a stop.

Mom turned the corner and followed our little-girl gazes to the high ceiling, where a large red slime rat was now stuck and waiting for rescue. “Girls! How did… why were you… Ugh! This is negative help!” She went instinctively to the side cupboard for the vacuum hose extender. After a few more grumbles and one belated, mom-assisted “rrrriiiippp,” all that remained was a pink, rat-shaped slime stamp on a white ceiling.

March 26

The mid-run interruption

I stepped out of the garage and clicked “go” on my watch. Road ice was almost dried, the sun was out, and Adam and Grace were prepping dinner in the kitchen (she was a nightly, mamaroo viewer of “Dad’s cooking show”). My afternoon run had begun. Warmth hit my face and heaviness eased out of my legs with each step. The three mile down-and-back route today? Or the four mile loop? A few mental back-and-forths pulled me toward a left turn out of the driveway, down the street toward the hilly four mile climb. Grace just ate, I told myself. And I deserve the extra mile. I picked up the pace, making a wide arc around the neighbor’s dog. I was nearing the corner when I heard it.

“Hi!” a friendly kid greeting from the side of the road. I turned my head… but where was he? I widened my gaze back farther from the road.

“Hey!” I chimed in response. I remembered the school-aged brothers who played on this corner– sometimes riding bikes, other times tossing with their dad, once in awhile racing down the street, one yelling toward the other, “car! Move over!” How lucky are we to live on a safe, kid-friendly street? My mind wandered. Kids learning to entertain themselves with their siblings, acknowledging neighbors with a friendly “hello” and—

“Pow pow pow!” I jumped mid-run, startled when I saw an orange play gun aimed directly at me. My attention had been baited with a polite greeting from one brother, making me a wide-eyed target for the other brother, who pressed the trigger in rapid clicks. Both crouched behind the hood of their dad’s truck. I blinked, anticipating a foam bullet or plastic dart, but nothing came. The sound effects continued as I gathered myself and restarted my jog. “Got her!” Hidden giggles floated from behind the truck as I rounded the corner, away from my young assailants.

March 25

Decisions

Grace smacked the final drops of milk on her lips, pulling her head back. Her eyes were closed, long eyelashes motionless in the late morning sunshine. I pushed blankets away and moved my pillow toward our headboard.

I looked at the clock: 10:35. Success– a morning nap that looked promising. How long had it been? Before the mini-celebration in my head was finished, my brain racked with a consequential decision. Earlier that day, I’d professed via text to my mom– today was a new chapter. All naps in her crib, all day. We needed a routine, I told myself. And I needed to stick to it. After all, she was happy and content in the crib at night, and these mid-nursing slumbers weren’t helping with predictable naps or well-timed feedings.

I looked at her tiny body basking in the comfy sunshine and suddenly, my die-hard commitment to the crib goal faltered. Just one more time would be fine, right? Once never hurt anything.

No! I steered myself away from the easy answer. This is what I did last week, and today I had already told myself– crib only. Consistency makes change. I believed this at school. And in exercise. And with wearing my retainers at night. Why should Grace’s sleep be any different?

But I looked at her arms, bent and sprawled around her head. I smiled, remembering the early ultrasounds that snapshotted her arms, always up and framing her face– nothing had changed there.

I heard the voices of my mom and aunt, professing their adherence to baby nap routines– 10 and 2! That’s what we did, Cal. It worked. Keep it consistent and you’ll even have time to get things done during the day!

But there would be a time I’d miss this, right? Maybe next year, when I’d crave midday snuggles. Or later, when sleeping in our bed would be “weird” and mid-day naps with Mom might be dreaded.

I thought of Babywise, its persistence and schedules and ultimate reward of a full night’s sleep for everyone. And Better than Before, my favorite habit-making book that described the necessity of stringing small wins together and warned of loophole-spotting. And Precious Little Sleep, the latest how-to I’d finished the week prior. Have her sleep in the same spot, I reminded myself. Associations make for better sleep.

I watched her stomach heave up and down, up and down. A tiny body in a big expanse of unmade bed. With a delicate, barely-audible sigh, her sleeping head turned toward where I stood, frozen with indecision.

Until I took a step and climbed in, covering our legs with a blanket.

March 24

Jordy’s ride

“I’m taking Jordy for a walk!” I yelled as I opened the door to the garage. I didn’t wait for a response. I grabbed the orange leash and walked toward Jordy’s dog house. “Come on buddy,” I said as I hooked the orange leash. I unhooked the metal run. My nine year-old heart swelled with pride, happy with my decision to give him exercise and freedom. We both turned toward the edge of our lawn, ready to start a few laps.

He bolted forward. I took one, two, three hard steps into the ground. My fast feet tried to keep the orange leash from straightening too tight. Four, five steps. I went quicker now, trying to keep up. Soon, I was sprinting behind my hundred-pound black lab. “He’ll probably get tired soon,” I thought to myself. “He has to.” He bolted with more force, sending me flying like superwoman toward the ground. Oof! My stomach smacked hard against the grass. Jordy only went faster. The leash tightened, now a straight orange line that I refused to let go of. Hard dirt bumps rubbed fast against my stomach as I flew behind my dog across the grass. Bright green stains wiped against my shirt. Jordy dragged and dragged with no sign of stopping. My hands rubbed raw and tears rolled down my face.

I was skidding across the lawn when I heard a sound coming from the bottom of the hill. “Do you need help?” It was my neighbor, shouting from his driveway.

The pain wasn’t enough to take away my shyness. I yelled through my tearful bumpy ride, “I’m okay!”

My “walk” with Jordy only ended when I saw my sister’s blonde hair through my blurry vision, far away on the lawn. “Celsey!” Her mouth dropped open when she saw Jordy pulling me like a sled. “Get mom!

March 23

The cow plop

The smell of hot dogs and hamburgers wafted through the late June heat. Hordes of East Fairfielders emerged from their homes to convene on the town green for the annual Lawn Party, a small, church-run fundraiser. Its entertainment options were many– fatty food, seed spitting contests, and a dunk tank for the priest. I made my way around the kid stations featuring floating ducks and tiny dart balloons and potato sacks, but this year was different. This was the year, my parents decided, my sister and I were old enough to be respected contenders in the Cow Plop. I, a third grader, was the proud and methodical owner of square 94. My sister’s kindergarten cow plop logic led her astray, I already knew, with a sideline number 8.

If you’re not from northern Vermont, there’s a chance background information may be needed here: the Cow Plop is a staple in any small town summer gathering. A large section of pavement is cordoned off– in our case, it was the basketball court across the street from the church. The pavement is gridded with spray paint, and each tiny square is assigned a number. Prior to the fundraiser, “numbers” are purchased, and fingers are crossed as a local farmer deposits a cow in the roped off area. Put simply, the first number to get pooped on wins big.

The afternoon sun was waning, Father Peter had been dunked and apple bobbing was struggling to hold my attention. My mind perpetually drifted back to the insurmountable pile of cash I’d win if Bessie would just poop on square 94. I hadn’t yet met with an adviser to determine how to invest the funds, but I was sure I’d do something worthy with them– maybe the new Backstreet Boys CD, maybe new adidas tear-aways, maybe a new American Girl doll. Hours passed, and the lawn party was over. Party-goers went home for dinner, stations were picked up, and Bessie stood dutifully, chewing grass on the side of the basketball court. My heart sunk. The cow would stay, Dad said, until it did its job. Not to worry– we would know who the winner was by tonight, he said. I went home, downtrodden and antsy.

A couple hours later, the phone rang– it was Gram, one of the Lawn Party organizers. A woman named Joanne had won. Dad hung up the phone and called to me, eating dinner on the deck but now with my face pressed against the screen door, ready to hear my destiny. “She pooped on 94 and 93!” He went on, describing the unusual scenario that had emerged, leaving lawn party enthusiasts stumped. Did the prize money go to the square with the most feces? (I hoped not, as Joanne had me there.) Would it be split between the two squares? (I crossed my fingers for this.) Who was this Joanne anyway? Did she even go here?

I hung onto hope for the rest of the evening, dreaming of my new life and wishing for Joanne’s demise. My fate was sealed with a call a few hours later. Lawn party loyals had met: it was decided. Dad hung up the phone and looked at me, his expression giving nothing away. My stomach turned. “What did she say?” Time stopped as my throat grew a lump.

“They’re going to split the money,” he said. “You won $250!” My heart soared, already giddy about walking through the aisles of Ames and choosing anything I wanted, as many times as I wanted, with money to spare. I would play this game every year, I told myself. This was my moment. Maybe I’d even give Dad back the $5 for paying for my square, I decided, already feeling philanthropic. Maybe I’d even put some in my savings account and–

“I bought your square,” Dad brought me back to earth. “So you’re splitting it with your sister.”

March 22

Got him

If you read yesterday’s slice, you’ll know that losing my Gram while abroad was the most painful experience I’ve had with death– maybe because of our relationship, maybe because my absence from the funeral services meant that I never had closure; maybe because of the regret I still feel for never sending that postcard. Writing yesterday’s post was my favorite “slice” thus far. It made me want to write one more about their loss, this time with a different tone– perhaps because Gram and Poppa were incredibly loved, but they weren’t intensely serious people.

Three autumns after losing Gram, we lost Poppa. At the time, I was in my second year of teaching fifth grade and spending Saturdays working as an activities coordinator at Homestead, the senior living facility where he spent his last two years. Because of their role in our childhood, my Dad asked if I wanted to write and share the eulogy. I agreed– before that happened, though, we were all to gather at Spears Funeral Home for Poppa’s wake, 4-7pm on a Tuesday night.

“I’ll meet you there,” I told my parents. I had stopped by their house after school. They were already dressed and ready to leave. “I want to finish these cookies. Plus, I’m wearing this, anyway.” I pointed to the dressy-enough outfit I’d worn to school. “But how do I get there?”

“Callie, are you serious?” Dad stared, dumbfounded but not disbelieving at the fact that I wasn’t geographically confident in a place ten miles away and two towns over. “It’s right across from the high school in Enosburg.”

“Right.” More cookie chewing. Fifteen minutes later, I typed “Spears” into google maps just in case, feeling full and confident with Siri’s turn-by-turn support. I found it, parked, and saw a crowd of my aunts, uncles, and cousins milling around the funeral home.

“Can I take your coat?” I turned and saw a young guy in a sportscoat with an extended hand. He looked familiar– the cousin of my old neighbors, I think. Someone my parents knew. Adam, I think his name was– I knew he was in the Enosburg sports crowd, and I’d heard gossip about his current on-and-off relationship.

“Sure.” I was left with an awkward load of my keys and… nowhere to put them. “Can you do something with these too? There’s a few. And they’re all very necessary,” I said, referring to the massive pile of keys jangled together in a ring. He smiled.

The hours passed, and we were comforted in our loss by friends and strangers who reminded us of Lyn Lumbra stories that featured his kindness, his humor, and his love of a good time. We shook hands and hugged, caught up with extended family, and reminisced with cousins, standing steady in a mix of people who came and went. As exhaustion creeped in and conversations continued, the mood turned lighter. “What’s for dinner?” Celsey asked me. “Can people order pizza here?”

“I don’t know. But I think Adam Goss is going to be my next project.” I pointed across the main room to the door, where he stood.

Celsey rolled her eyes. “Mom says yes, we can order. Do you want pepperoni?” My sister was the steady and unflappable influence in my dating life– an extracurricular activity that had recently been put on hold. After a tumultuous go with online dating, I realized I was treating “find a life mate” as a frantic item on a to do list… and it wasn’t working. After more than a few terrible dates and fake “I have to go” excuses, I decided I just “needed to chill”– maybe this was my own epiphany, or maybe those were the words of my Mom.

Pizza came, and 7:00 went. The last of our family was migrating toward the funeral home door, where I’d receive my keys and a witty comment back from the same guy. “Do you have any water?” I asked before I walked out. He pointed to the water fountain. I blinked and didn’t say anything, thinking of the germy, perpetually warm water that comes out from any and all stainless steel fountains. What was it that people always said about my face? That I have a hard time hiding my emotions?

“Or we have bottled water,” he started to walk toward another room.

“Yeah, that would be great, thanks. ” I waited and took his offering.

Our family said our goodbyes and made plans to reconvene in the morning before the funeral. Tomorrow came, and I struggled to read the eulogy in front of a full church. We heard Poppa’s favorite song– “What a Wonderful World” as we made a tearful exit, saw him buried, and parted ways.

Two weeks later, I opened a Facebook friend request from Adam. I did what any millennial would do: screenshotted his request, forwarded to the family group message, and added two words of my own.

Got him.

Five years later, Adam and I are married and have a four-month-old daughter, Grace. (There are a few unimportant details in between.) And I now know how to get to Spears Funeral Home, as Adam and I purchased the business a few years ago. So though this story concluded an era– the part of our life that was Poppa and Gram— the encore, thanks to them, had just begun.