Chapter 1: Happy New Year

Earth is a remarkable jig saw puzzle of ever moving parts. As one piece shifts, another takes its place, then vanishes and the entire thing resets in some hardly noticable fashion. That’s the real genius of the thing. It seems to the simple human to be so darn permanent when it’s anything but.

I have a deep seated belief that my little part in this unfathomably big orchestration came down to one moment in time and only that moment: to be with my mother at the moment she died. It seems inadequate. There has to be something bigger. But you have to understand this about my mother. God loved her. He loved her a lot. She was eleven years old, sitting on her grandparents’ stove in the Ukraine when war with Germany was declared. War is no easy way to grow up, especially for a beautiful, I mean unbelievably beautiful and vivacious girl. She loved to point out how after the war, God protected her from sex hungry Americans by finding her a home behind the battlements of an octogenarian horder; how during the war, when she decided to flee towards the bishop’s house in Wiesbaden during the carpet bombing, a hand grabbed her out of the smoke and dragged her through the melting sidewalk and pushed her into the river.

There were more stories, of course. Always with my mother squinting at me, saying in her clipped accent, “You don’t believe me.” She said I was her miracle, that at the moment of my conception, my father was, how should I put it nicely, underwhelming in his sexuality. But she had complained to the priest at the convent and he assured her that God will see her through. As usual, he did. Four months after my birth, God made sure a pot dropped from the fourth story missed my carriage by a few inches and we shortly left New York City for permanence in Connecticut.

But now I am racing ahead of myself. My final moments with my mother wouldn’t happen until 2016. Unfortunately, in order to get to that very moment, Shelley had to enter my life. This is where the Annus Horribilis truly has its beginning.

My son Andrew was always the quiet one. The middle son, with two older siblings, and a sibling eighteen months younger. Like the shark in jaws, he had stealth on his side. At age three, he disappeared from a party and was found three blocks away. I caught him one evening eating children’s tylenol from a child proof bottle like it was candy. In his teenaged years, he took to the stage, mild mannered Dr. Jekyl off stage, some wicked Hyde beast when in front of an audience.

After college, he took off for Hollywood to become a writer. On his second stint as production assistant, he met Shelley. I only remember one other girlfriend, a lovely young fourteen year old girl he dated during a summer at The New England Music Camp. Shelley and Andrew visited us over Christmas, but when January 2013 rolled around, Shelley needed to go back to her assistant job for a big Hollywood celebrity. Andrew, meanwhile, dragged us to the jeweler’s so we could see the type of ring he planned to give Shelley for their engagement. Rose gold. Large diamond. Shelley left him with a long, very exacting set of specifications. Rod and I looked at each other. How much money exactly does a production assistant make?

Of course, Andrew at thirty was plenty old enough to do whatever the heck he wanted. Shelley, however, at forty-five, rather made us think that no matter what a person might want, biology might have other ideas.