Something More Than This – A Free Valentine’s Day Story in One Act

You’ve read the rest of the Fondue Writer’s Free Fiction Valentine’s Day stories. Now, it’s time to suffer through mine! Hold onto your goetta, folks. This one’s a doozie.

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

SETTING: A small restaurant. The dinner patrons have just finished eating their meal and have settled into conversation. The waitress drops off the last of the drinks as Kevin, who is just hitting his stride, launches into another story to the enjoyment of his friends.

KEVIN: So I went out with Beth the other night.

ADAM: Was that the girl you met at Mike and Melissa’s Christmas party?

KEVIN: No. That was Chrissie. This was Beth, the blind date my cousin set me up on.

JOSH: Whatever happened to Jaime? Did you guys break up or something?

KEVIN: Not really. It just didn’t work out.

MIKE: What happened?

KEVIN: She had a mole and that wrecked it for me.

ADAM: A mole?

MIKE: (sarcastically) Oh no, Kevin … Not a mole!

ADAM: Moley Moley Moley Moley …

JOSH: Come on, now, Kevin, you have to look past these kinds of things. It’s the twenty first century. Society is evolving. Be a bigger man.

ADAM: Right, and besides, those women are all the rage in Borneo and Sri Lanka these days. Were you to move there with the lovely, mole-faced Jamie as your wife, you’d be a king!

MIKE: I once dated a woman who had Fred Flintstone feet and I learned to put up with it.

KEVIN: Fred Flintstone feet?

MIKE: Yeah. She had only four toes. All of them were normal at the base but spread out into a thin, flat circle around the toenail. They looked like little hammerhead sharks. And her feet looked more like flippers than normal feet.

JOSH & KEVIN: Wicked.

MIKE: She had some trouble walking straight, but get that woman into a pool and there was no stopping her.

JOSH: That’s nothing. My ex girlfriend had a moustache.


JOSH: Yessir. Big and bushy as could be. She tried to shave it off in the morning, but the five o’clock shadow was there by noon. If she let it go for a couple of days, she looked like Tom Selleck.

KEVIN: Really?

JOSH: Yeah. Well … Tom Selleck with breasts.

ADAM: You had it easy. My ex fiancé had Tourette’s syndrome.

MIKE: What’s that?

JOSH: That’s where you inadvertently scream obscenities in public for no good reason.

KEVIN: Doesn’t your mother have that, Josh?

JOSH: No. She’s just mean. She’s always yelling at my brother and me, and I’ve never understood it. It’s not like we accidentally set the neighbor’s garage on fire when we were kids. We knew what we were doing.

KEVIN: That sure was a beautiful flame.

JOSH: Yessir.

MIKE: You could see it for miles around.

ADAM: Well my ex fiancé’s Tourette’s was real. Imagine my embarrassment when I bent down on one knee to propose marriage and, in her excitement, she let out a string of obscenities just as a a bunch of kids walked past.

MIKE: Did she say yes?

ADAM: Of course! And the restaurant manager was so impressed with my demeanor, he took my picture and put it on the wall.

KEVIN: So how come you never got married?

ADAM: We had political disagreements.

JOSH: Was she one of those brainless libs?


MIKE: A right wing nut job?


KEVIN: What was it then?

ADAM: I caught her sleeping with the mayor.

MIKE: That’ll do it every time.

ADAM: How was your date with Beth, Kevin? Was it a smashing success as usual?

KEVIN: Mostly. It started out great, but I ran into some problems about halfway through.

ADAM: What happened?

KEVIN: I had it all planned out. I picked her up in the Beamer, greeted her with a massive bouquet, and I made sure there was a bottle of wine waiting for us at the restaurant.

MIKE: Classy.

JOSH: You bought her flowers? She must be hot. I never buy flowers on the first date.

ADAM: And it’s a wonder you’re still single.

JOSH: You’re already paying for dinner. Flowers on top of that is a lot of money for someone you might never see again.

ADAM: Dude, you’re hopeless.

KEVIN: We ordered dinner and did the chick talk-y thing. (pasue) The problem was I had bad gas building up for over an hour, and of course I couldn’t just beef right there at the dinner table.

ADAM: (looking at Josh, as though explaining something to a child) That’s because it’s not considered good date etiquette, Josh. Make sure to write that down.

JOSH: Shut up.

ADAM: Assuming, of course, you succeed in bribing somebody to go out with you again.

JOSH: Shut up!

KEVIN: Or if the Russian brides website takes you off their permanent ban list.

JOSH: Hey that was a misunderstanding. Customs laws are more complicated than you think.


KEVIN: When she excused herself to powder her nose, I took advantage of the opportunity and let one fly

ADAM: Of course!

KEVIN: But, I gambled and lost.

MIKE: You what?

KEVIN: Like I said, it was a lot of gas. One of those farts where you can’t tell if it’s going to be an actual bathroom incident or just hot air.

ADAM: And?

KEVIN: It wasn’t just air. (they laugh)

JOSH: So what did you do?

KEVIN: The only thing I could do. I ran to the bathroom, finished up, tossed my underpants in the trash, and made it back to the table before she did.

ADAM: You threw out your underwear in the middle of a restaurant!

KEVIN: Yep. Went commando the rest of the night.

JOSH: And she never suspected it?

KEVIN: No. I had a fresh glass of wine waiting for her when she returned.

JOSH: So the date was a success, then?

KEVIN: More or less. We had a good time, but I don’t think we’ll go out again. She’s a redhead and you know how I feel about redheads.

(The remaining men groan)

MIKE: You’ve gotta get past this redhead thing, man. Just because one or two of them were crazy …

JOSH:  … Or three …

ADAM:  … Or four …

MIKE: It doesn’t mean they’re all bad.

JOSH: Right. You don’t want to be prejudiced against redheads, now.

KEVIN: I’m not prejudiced, but I do do percentages and averages. Of the 5 redheads I’ve dated, 4 of them were nuts. I’m talking full tilt bozo, if you know what I mean.

ADAM: What about the other one?

KEVIN: She became a nun. 

(they all laugh)

JOSH: Hey, speaking of crazy people, did you guys hear about the kid that got lost at the Taste of Orlando festival last week?

ADAM: What about him? Kids get lost at those things all the time.

MIKE: Some get lost for good.

KEVIN: Yeah, that’s that survival of the fittest thing, right?

MIKE: No. I don’t think that applies to humans.

ADAM: Yeah. I think you have to be a fish or a duck or something like that.

MIKE: My cousin looks like a duck. Does that count?

ADAM: I don’t know. Maybe.

KEVIN: Well if anybody was ever naturally selected for extinction, it was my cousin Joey. He went on an all-beer diet to try to lose weight.

JOSH: Sounds interesting.

MIKE: Tell me more.

ADAM: I like the cut of his jib!

KEVIN: I told him he was nuts, but he disagreed. “Beer is nutritious,” he said. “You see bums drinking it all the time. It’s like Ensure™ for homeless people.” (pause)  So he spent a month consuming nothing but beer.

JOSH: What happened?

KEVIN: He died of cirrhosis.

ADAM: Oh, Kevin. I’m sorry.

KEVIN: That’s ok. I never liked him anyway.

MIKE: Why not?

KEVIN He was really into golf and that just got on my nerves.

JOSH: That’s strange.

KEVIN: The week before he died, he attacked me with a five iron.

ADAM: That’s understandable. He was probably hammered out of his mind.

KEVIN: It was my five iron.


KEVIN: I haven’t been able to hit a decent chip shot since.

JOSH: So this kid shoes up at the police tent at the Taste of Orlando saying he can’t find his mom, right? The cops figure someone will show up in a few minutes, all scared and apologetic like most parents would.

MIKE: My mom thought she lost me at a department store when I was a kid. She lost her mind.

ADAM: Yeah, but you’re mom’s always been crazy.

MIKE: She wanted to kill me when she found out I’d been hiding in the women’s changing room but, when she saw the four hundred pound woman who’d been trying on bras walk out of the room I’d been hiding in, she figured that was punishment enough.

KEVIN & ADAM: (shudder visibly)

JOSH: So this kid sits in the cop tent all day long and his parents never show up. The cops had to take him back to the station and he stayed there for eight days before they found out who he was.

MIKE: That reminds me of the movie “Joe Dirt.”

ADAM: At least he ate well for a couple of days, though.

KEVIN: His parents probably got confused and went to the “Taste of Crack” festival a few blocks over.

JOSH: It’s amazing. You have to get a license to fish, but you can have as many kids as you like no matter how dumb you are.

MIKE: Yeah, but if you catch a bad fish, you can always throw it back.


MIKE: What? All I’m saying there’s a difference between fishing and raising kids.

KEVIN: It’s like apples and oranges.

JOSH: Or cheese wheels and roller coasters.

MIKE: Exactly.

ADAM: What happened to the kid? Did he go back to his parents?

JOSH: I don’t know. The story went on to page ten and I didn’t feel like flipping that far into the paper. Besides, all I really wanted to do was see the line on the Super Bowl.

MIKE: That reminds me. Are you guys up for watching the hockey game this weekend at my place?

JOSH: Sure.

KEVIN: Nah. If I wanted to see toothless men beat each other senseless with sticks, I’d go to my family reunion.

ADAM: I can’t.

MIKE: Why not?

ADAM: I have to do community service this weekend.

KEVIN: Did your neighbors catch you peeing in their flowerbed again?

MIKE: How many times have we told you to stop that?

ADAM: That’s not it.

JOSH: Right. His neighbors will never catch him. He’s too stealthy.

MIKE: Er something.

ADAM: I got arrested for shoplifting.

KEVIN: You what?

ADAM: Yep. They took me downtown. Booked me and everything.

MIKE: What did you do, Adam?  (spoken like the line “What did you do, Ray?” in Ghostbusters)

ADAM: Well I was out at the mall last Saturday, looking for a new pair of sandals. My old pair is starting to pull apart at the seams and the strap cuts into my foot.

KEVIN: Oooh. I hate it when that happens. I once cut my foot on my sandals when I was at Cedar Point. By the time I got home I was limping like Quasimodo.

JOSH: I thought he had a hunchback, not a limp.

KEVIN: He had both. I think the two are connected.


ADAM: I was standing in Abercrombie and Fitch, when I noticed this smoking hot chick standing a few rows over. I’m talking long, brown hair and a gorgeous figure.

MIKE: Now this is getting interesting.

KEVIN: Tell me more.

JOSH: I like the cut of his jib!

ADAM: She has a t-shirt in her hand and she looks around real fast, like she’s checking to make sure nobody’s watching. Then she starts rolling up the t-shirt.

KEVIN: Uh oh.

ADAM: She looks around again to see who’s watching, and then stuffs the t-shirt in her purse.

KEVIN: (shaking his head) That’s what they get for charging $150 for an “all cotton tee.”

ADAM: Right then, I’m thinking maybe this was just a strange way women like to shop. Like it keeps their hands free or something. But I changed my mind when she walked out of the store.

JOSH: So how does this get you arrested?

MIKE: Yeah?

ADAM: Well I figured this was my chance, so I ran out after her and grabbed her elbow. “Undercover security, m’am,” I said. “Step this way, please?”

MIKE: Oh, that’s genius.

ADAM: She’s freaking out. She hands me the shirt from her purse and starts walking back to the store, thinking I’m going to call the cops on her. But I say, “Wait a minute. We don’t have to go through all of that. I’ll let you off with if you promise never to do it again. And if you go to dinner with me.”

JOSH: Beautiful.

KEVIN: Well played, sir!

ADAM: She handed me her driver’s license and I was halfway through copying her address and phone number when I felt a hand on my arm and heard a voice say, “Undercover security, sir. Could you step this way, please?”

MIKE: D’oh!

ADAM: I looked behind me and saw three security guards standing there. I looked back to the girl, but she bolted. She left me standing there with the shirt she’d stolen. They called the cops, I got nailed for shoplifting, and now I have to do 100 hours of community service.

KEVIN: That sucks, dude.

ADAM: It’s not all bad. I did get her number, remember.

JOSH: You didn’t call her, did you?

ADAM: I sure did. We’re going out next weekend. She’s picking me up after my morning of court-ordered, roadside trash collection.

KEVIN: That sounds … romantic?

ADAM: I think so.

JOSH: So, Mike, what’s this big news you want to tell us?

KEVIN: Yeah, what’s going on?

ADAM: Right. We’ve been waiting all night for you to tell us. Speak up!

MIKE: Well. You know how Melissa and I have been dating for almost a year now? You know how I’ve been saying we were meant to be together and all that, right?

ADAM: Is this what I think it is?

JOSH: Mike and Melissa finally broke up.


JOSH: Welcome back to the fold, my brother. Don’t worry. The pain will go away after the first couple of months.

KEVIN: Right. Take it from him. He’s a pro. He’s wrecked hundreds of relationships.

MIKE: No. We didn’t break up. We’re getting married.

(a long moment of shocked silence)

ADAM: Really?

MIKE: Yes.

KEVIN: Like … married married?

MIKE: Uh-huh.

JOSH: What? Did you lose a bet or something?


ADAM: When did this happen?

MIKE: Last night. We went out to dinner, and then we went for a walk next to the lake. I proposed and she said yes.

ADAM: This is gonna change everything.

KEVIN: Don’t you wanna hang out with us anymore?

MIKE: Yeah, I like hanging out with you guys. It’s great to sit here and tell stories over a few drinks, but there has to be a bit more to life than just that. Haven’t you guys ever thought there was something more than this?


ADAM: No way.

KEVIN: I know what you mean. It’s like when you’re playing Super Mario Brothers. You get all the way to the end and then King Koopa shoots you with a fireball. You die again and again, but then one day you beat the game. Then you sit back and you say, “What am I gonna do now?”

JOSH: Oh. Hey, yeah. I get it.

ADAM: That’s why they made Super Mario two.

KEVIN: And part three.

ADAM: And Mario Cart!

JOSH: Oooh. I love that game.

KEVIN: Me too. I like the part where…

MIKE: No. Getting married is not like beating a video game.

ADAM: (very surprised) It isn’t?

MIKE: No. It’s like…like meeting an old friend for the first time. Or finding an answer to a question that’s haunted you. It’s not something you can describe, really. That’s what Melissa is to me. Indescribable. She’s that something I’ve been looking for. I love her. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. So we’re getting married.

(more silence)

ADAM: Really?

MIKE: Yes … really. Why is it so hard to believe?

JOSH: I don’t know. It’s a shock, I guess.

ADAM: But … it’s not a bad thing.

JOSH: Yeah. It’s kinda cool.

ADAM: One of the crew, finally tying the knot.

KEVIN: I guess that means there’s hope for the rest of us.

MIKE: Well, maybe not.

KEVIN: Why do you say that?

MIKE: You’re the one who dated a girl with a Tom Selleck moustache, right.


ADAM: Yeah? What’s wrong with that?

(they all look at him with genuine looks of confusion)

MIKE: Nevermind.


JOSH: Hey. You know what this means, right?

ADAM: Oh yeah, baby!

ALL (minus Mike): Bachelor party!

ADAM: This one time I was at a bachelor party where the best man took the groom and all of his friends to a bar for some midget tossing. It was awesome!

MIKE: I don’t think that’s a good idea.

JOSH: Whatever, dude. Midget tossing is a classy sport in all those Eastern European countries. They had a special on ESPN 8, and The Ocho never lies.

KEVIN: Didn’t you start your own backyard wrestling league because The Ocho said it was “all the rage? “

ADAM: That’s how you got that concussion, right?

JOSH: Alright. So they lied to me once. They won’t do it again. I trust them.

MIKE: I’m the one getting married, and I don’t think midget tossing is …

KEVIN: We’re the ones planning the party. If we say its midget tossing, then midget tossing it is.

ADAM: We could film it and made our own DVD.

JOSH: Yeah! We could call it “Mike and the Midgets” or maybe just “Mike and Midge” for short. We’d want to save money on printing, so the less words the better.

KEVIN: This is gonna be sweet. I can’t wait!

(Mike lowers his head, shaking it slowly, while everyone else cheers with excitement)

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

If you fell in love with this one, why not give some of the other authors a chance as well. Check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, that Christmas miracles really do come true.

You might also consider our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Rob Cely will be back to close out our Valentine’s Day Explode-A-Ganza on Monday. Until then, remember that what happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, Cats always land on their feet, and babies cry less when they sleep on their stomachs … so long as you don’t break anything. .

There’s Always A Carpenter – A Free Valentine’s Story by Paul J Bennett

Day three of the Valientine’s Day Free Fiction Explode-A-Ganza brings us a wonderful, modern-day retelling of an old story by Dr. Paul J Bennett. And it’s set in a coffee shop, too! Check out “There’s Always A Carpenter

If you fell in love with this one, why not give some of the other authors a chance as well. Check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, that Christmas miracles really do come true.

You might also consider our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Derek Alan Elkins will be back tomorrow with another story in our Valentine’s Day Explode-A-Ganza on Monday. Until then, remember that what happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, Cats always land on their feet, and babies cry less when they sleep on their stomachs … so long as you don’t break anything. .

The Picture – A Free Valentine’s Day Story from Jamie D. Greening

A picture holds a thousand words. But with today’s Free Valentine’s Day fiction, a picture might as well hold millions. Jamie Greening brings us another perspective on the paths love can take across a lifetime with his story: The Picture:

If you fell in love with this one, why not give some of the other authors a chance as well. Check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, that Christmas miracles really do come true.

You might also consider our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Dr Paul Bennet will be back tomorrow with another Valentine’s Day short story. Until then, find someone you love, hug them tight, and remind them not to break anything.

The Spinster Squad vs Cupid: A Valentine’s Day Massacre – Kathy Kexel

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fondue Writer’s Club is back with a brand-new set of piping hot stories, this time in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

It’s strange to see the weirdness and degeneracy of one group of people rub off onto another. In this case, the moral degradation of the lunatic fringe of the Fondue Writer’s Club And Bar And Grille And Laundromat has, at least at first glance, given the title, rubbed off onto sweet, innocent Kathy Kexel.

What else are we to suppose, with her using words like “Massacre” right there in the title?

But if you look a little closer, the prevailing theme is something more akin to mischievousness than malevolence. And if that be the case, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Check out the new story from Kathy Kexel.

If you fell in love with this one, why not give some of the other authors a chance as well. Check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, that Christmas miracles really do come true.

You might also consider our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Jamie Greening will be back with another VD story tomorrow. Until then, remember to clean up after yourselves, spay and neuter your pets, and always always always try not to break anything.

A Year On

It’s been a year since Mom passed away. A whole year. I can hardly believe it. There are a thousand stories I could tell you about her. Some serious. Some funny. Some disturbing. Some all three. . 

Here’s one…

When I was a kid, she convinced me to be a part of the church Christmas play by saying to me one day, “Joey. Would you like some ice cream?” 

“Yes!” I said, because I loved ice cream. I still love ice cream. 

“Great! Get in the car. Let’s go.” 

She drove me to Forrest Park Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio – our church at the time – and told me to get out of the car. 

“Mom? I thought we were getting ice cream!” 

“We are. Just as soon as you’re finished with play practice. You meet twice a week until Christmas, and don’t think about backing out, now that you’ve committed.”

“But I…”

“Have fun!” 

And she drove off. We ended up getting ice cream that day, but I was wary of her invitations from then on out. Sometimes, they came with thick strings attached. 

Here’s another one … 

When I was about ten years old, Mom took my sister and me to the Greenhills pool one summer afternoon. We put our towels down on the hill overlooking the concourse because all the chairs were taken, and we spent a few hours swimming. 

Normally, my friends and I would play dodgeball in the grass next to the pool during adult swim when us kids weren’t allowed in the water. But on this day, none of my friends were there. One of the kids in our group – Jack was his name – had a birthday party, and everyone was invited but me. 

So I sat moping on the beach towels on the hill overlooking the pool, and refused to talk to anyone. Mom sat next to me. 

“I just thought of a story,” she said. 

I didn’t respond, so she continued. “This friend of yours…”

“He’s not my friend.” 

“Okay. This kid. He wakes up the morning after his birthday to find that he’s got big, donkey ears.” 


“Donkey ears and a tail. And every time he speaks, he brays like a mule. And he smells like a sewage plant.”

“And people stop calling him Jack. Instead, they call him Jackass.” 

Instead of scolding me for the dirty word, she laughed.

“Right. Jackass. He’s the biggest Jackass in greater Cincinnati.” 

“Everywhere he goes, people say to him, they say ‘Watch out, everyone. There goes that gigantic jackass again!” 

We laughed hard at that for a while, I felt better about missing that Jackass’s birthday party, and from there on out, every time someone made me angry, I would invent stories in my head about them being part of the Jackass family.

That family is pretty big now.

Then there was the time we ran out of money and mom had to sell her piano to make ends meet. I was very young at this point; four or five maybe. She loved that piano. She had all kinds of sheet music, and she would play from her big book of songs in the summer afternoons when it was too hot to do anything else. It would somehow make things cooler.

The guys in the moving truck came, and took her piano away. She stood at the screen door, crying, for a good long time after that. At the time, I remember thinking she must have liked that piano more than I thought. I understood that more as I got older. 

Still more. 

When I was in high school, my friends and I loved to play frisbee golf. We’d go play the courses in Cincinnati and, if we returned to my house, Mom would loudly proclaim: “Don’t get your jizz on the carpet, guys!” 

“Yeah, Joe,” my friends said. “Stop jizzing on the carpet.”

We told her what it meant, but she didn’t believe us. She had to ask her friends at work the next day, which just made things all the more awesome. We laughed at that for a good, long time. We never stopped laughing at that.

When I was in middle school and my sister was in high school, our one landline – remember landlines? – our one landline was almost always tied up by my sister, talking on the phone with her then boyfriend. 

That’s probably not exactly true. It might have only been a few minutes a day, but to me, it seemed like always. 

Anyway, whenever my sister was on the phone, Mom would sneak into the bathroom with one of the other phones, plug it in, and then spy on my sister’s phone call. As if neither of us knew what she was doing. Caryn and I made up all sorts of fake stories with our friends and respective love interests just to drive mom into wild fits. 

Mom had a hard time when Caryn left for college. Part of her light seemed to grow dim for a while. I left two years later, and I have to imagine the same thing happened then, too, although I never saw it up close like I did when Caryn left. 

My oldest son will be in eighth grade next year. Blink, and he’ll be in college like we were, and I can imagine some of my light dissipating for a while, too. I’m starting to figure that out. 

One of my favorite things Mom did was to wake us up for church on Sundays. She’d sneak into my room, and gently prod me awake. I’d pretend to be asleep. Or annoyed, Or asleep and annoyed. But, eventually, I’d get up and we’d get going. She never forced us to go, but she laid a good foundation for my sister and me. She always spoke openly about God in a way that showed her deep faith and love for the Lord, but was not overbearing. If you disagreed, that was okay. She still loved you. Loving you was more important that you believing what she thought was right. 

I struggle with that sometimes. 

Mom tried to get me to go to the hospital to see my Grandpa Shaw when he was nearing the end of his life. I didn’t. I kept telling myself that he was just getting something fixed, that there would be more time, that this wasn’t the end. But it was. And when I went to his funeral, I couldn’t believe I had missed my last opportunity to say goodbye. 

When Grandma Shaw died a few years later, I was there to say goodbye. Mom was right there with me, holding my hand. She told Grandma I was there to say hi, and Grandma turned her head slightly and tried to smile. I had to leave the room. I had never been that close to someone who was dying before. It was hard to see. 

When my Grandma Amrein was killed in a car accident, Mom asked if I would read Grandma’s favorite scripture at her funeral. Psalm 121. I will lift up mine eyes to the hills. From whence commeth my strength. 

I made it halfway through before the lump in my throat took over and I couldn’t make the words come out anymore. The pastor had to finish for me. 

A few months later, the girl who killed my Grandma spoke at one of the local schools. Mom went. Afterward, she approached the girl and said that she forgave her. It was a touching moment (you may have heard me speak about it before). That girl went on to marry into a family that’s famous in Cincinnati for a certain brand of cookies. As far as I know, Mom never bought those cookies again the rest of her life, despite her having forgiven the young woman. 

Which just goes to show that forgiveness is an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to do. 

Mom was over the moon excited as we prepared for the birth of our first kid. Jen was in labor for a good, long while and mom, having grown suspicious that we had neglected to let her know when he was born, called all my friends and the hospital multiple times, asking what was happening. 

Many years later, knowing that we had been trying to have a girl, Mom settled into the idea that Shaw Kid #5 – SK5 – was going to be a boy. That’s what the Doctors said, after all. They had been back and forth for a while, but the final ultrasounds all said Boy, so that’s what it was going to be. 

We called her after everything calmed down. Mom asked “So … what’s his name.” 

“Phoebe,” I said. 

“Phoebe? That’s an odd name for a …. Wait?” 

“It’s a girl,” I said, and she cried open tears of joy in celebration. 

There are so many stories. So very many stories. I could sit here for hours recounting them. If you knew her, you know. If you didn’t … well, you really would have liked to know her. The light dimmed sometimes, but it was always there, and she was always willing to share it. 

A few years ago, mom started having health problems. It got worse and worse. I remember I was driving through a wetlands park here in Florida, when I spoke with Mom after she had come home from yet another trip to the hospital. 

“The doctors say things are looking better,” she said. 

“Mom. I think you need to get some new doctors. I don’t think these guys know what they’re doing.” 

“I’m fine where I am,” she said, and that was that, although I think that’s when she knew things weren’t going to get better. 

We spent many evenings from there on, talking late into the night: her on her back porch in Greenhills, Ohio and me on the front porch, sweating through another summer in Orlando. We talked about old friends. We talked about the kids. We talked about politics and faith. We told stories. 

Exactly one year ago today, we stayed up late, chatting. I was preoccupied with my latest attempt at changing the world through a TEDx talk, and she just listened. She said the doctors wanted her to go into the hospital again for a simple procedure to help fix the swelling in her legs. 

“It’s only an hour or so,” She said, “It’s nothing.” 

Mom and Dad called the next night from the hospital to let me know when the surgery was planned. They had been looking at new places to live. Making plans for the future. She told me she loved me. I told her I loved her, too. She seemed happy. Hopeful. 

This was the last time I would speak with her on this side of the veil. 

The following morning, she had her surgery. She came through, but crashed shortly afterward. I flew up. By the time I got there, she was mostly out of it. Dad was there. Caryn was there. My cousins Sandy and Michelle were there. I held her hand for a while. Then the doctors said it was time to remove the medicine keeping her alive. They gave her morphine, and what little bit of her presence that had hung on long enough for me to get there, melted away a few minutes later. 

We sat with her in the hospital room, late into the night as her breathing slowed, rasped, and then eventually stopped. There didn’t seem to be much pain. She was there one moment, and the next she had just slipped away, almost without us noticing, even though we were all quietly watching and waiting. 

I stopped by the field that used to be our house where I grew up. They tore it down a few years back. I walked into what would have been our living room and I remembered the stories. I could still see us laughing about my friend, the Jackass. I could still see the piano being loaded up and carried away. I was hoping maybe to feel something Big and Important. But I didn’t. All I felt was numb. All I felt was the hole in my life she once filled. 

There have been many times in the last year, where I’ve caught myself wanting to tell mom another story. Something the kids did. Something that happened at work. Some struggle I’m having. Another Jackass who’s entered the fray. 

Then, I remember. She’s not there to answer. She’s with God now and I will see her again one day, and that’s all well and good. But right now, she’s out there somewhere and I can’t share with her these things I am so used to sharing. It’s been a year, and that part still hasn’t gotten any easier. 

Mom didn’t want a funeral. She wanted everyone who loved her to gather in my aunt Nancy’s backyard and have a party. She wanted us to laugh and tell stories. She wanted us to enjoy ourselves, to not mourn too much. We did that, more or less. Family and friends flew in from all over. We grilled some food, drank some adult sodas, laughed, and told stories. The little kids ran around screaming. Exasperated parents chased after them, knocking over plates of food and various, assortments of toys and sporting equipment. Mass chaos. Just like every family gathering I can remember. Shortly thereafter, we all went back to our daily grinds and life just kinda … moved on. 

But we haven’t moved on. When you lose someone you love, there is no moving on. You just move forward. That part of your heart that was ripped out, that piece of your light that dimmed; it will always be that way. The wounds remain. You just learn to work around them.

That’s a hard thing. It’s good, because it means there was a lot of love there, but that doesn’t stop it from being hard. 

Some friends have asked what I would have said at Mom’s funeral had I delivered the eulogy. My first response is usually, “I probably wouldn’t have done it. My family still hasn’t forgiven me for screwing up Grandma’s.” 

If I had done the eulogy, though, it might have gone something like this … 

The last things I said to you, Mom, right as you passed were “I love you” and “Thank you.” Thank you for the stories. Thank you for the inappropriate jokes. Thank you for the mad attempts to get me involved in things I didn’t want to be involved in. Thank you for steering me away from the things I needed to avoid.. Thank you for always being excited about the Next Big Thing happening in my life. Thank you for teaching me to be a responsible human being, despite my limitless capacity for irresponsibility. Thank you for always pointing the way back to God in all things you do. That’s been a stronger compass in my life than nearly everything else. Thank you for giving me the freedom to fail at so many things, and the joy to share when I succeed at one or two of them. Thank you for showing me strength in failure and humility in success. Thank you for showing me what it’s like to be a servant, to continue loving people even as your life wound down. Thank you for so much wild, reckless love for me, my wife, my kids, my friends, our family, everyone. So much so that it’s almost embarrassing, and I don’t get embarrassed. 

Thank you for everything. I love you and I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again. There are SO MANY Jackasses I need to tell you about. You have no idea. 

Also: don’t get jizz on the carpet. I hear God doesn’t like that.