Class Reunions

Should I still be alive by then, 2024 will mark the year of my high school class’s 50th reunion. For a long time, I considered my high school years to be the best years of my life. It was my first chance at making friends outside of the kids in my neighborhood. I was involved in both band and choir, and most of my actual friends were involved in one or both. Band members got the lockers closest to the band room, as we often had practice in the mornings before school, especially for concert band when we didn’t have to practice marching. Choir was actually a period during the day, so, except for special things like the annual high school musical, we didn’t have to go early, or stay after, school.

Back when the first high school class reunion happened – 5 years in 1979 – we didn’t have the technology to find (almost) anyone using the Internet. I’d been married, last name changed, moved from home, so I suppose I was difficult to find. At least that’s what I told myself, because I never received word of it. So on and so on; I never knew about a class reunion until the 35th year. It was being held in a bar/restaurant, but there were no drinks or food being provided, simply a place to gather and socialize and buy your own food and drinks. And I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t even being held at and supporting a bar/restaurant in our own school district boundaries – in fact, not even in our own county.

During my years at high school, I had friends – band and/or choir members – who were either a year in front of or a year behind my grade. I thought how nice it would be to see some of them, more than many of my classmates, but I didn’t have that opportunity. Those people were formative during my high school years much more than most of my classmates.

As I was working on the process of scanning photos and keeping them digitally instead of in hard copy, I thought about doing that with high school yearbooks. There are plenty of pages in my yearbook that have no real significance to me – things like homecoming courts and clubs like A/V and chess, nor did I really know any of the people associated with them. I thought about how efficient it would be to just scan the pages that were important to me, that had some meaning to my years back then. But, upon reflection, I decided that, no matter how seldom I took them off the shelves and looked at them, seeing them on the shelves gave me a warm fuzzy, so stay there they will. Plus, my yearbook is filled with hand-written well wishes, and I feel like they are more strongly sentimental in the book than on a scanned photo.

Meanwhile, just for sh*ts and giggles, I decided to take my senior year yearbook from the shelf and look through it with a purpose. I wanted to look at each senior’s photo and ask myself if this was someone I’d love to have the chance to see again. I am in contact through social media (some more actively than others) with a small handful of my fellow classmates, and I’d be happy to see all of them again. Out of a class of over 250 seniors, and discounting those with whom I’ve stayed in contact, there are two seniors that I would hug like the dickens if I ever saw them again, and two others I would enjoy seeing where 50 years has taken them. I also discovered that there was one person I would avoid like the plague and two others I’d prefer to not have contact with if possible.

The “best years of my life” carried less than 20 people who have stayed in my life. And of that handful, only three of them have I seen in person in 48 years. How did these alleged “best years of my life” end up giving me so little that I still hold dear? The answer to that lies in the fact that my three years of high school gave me opportunities to learn. Not in the traditional sense, like books and classes and tests, but to have my first footsteps into the world outside of my neighborhood, family and church family. High school was the first place where I occasionally let my real self shine through (albeit in small doses). It was the first real lesson to me that I could overcome things, even if I did it my way and not the ‘authorized by parents’ way.

I read back over this and really wonder if I want to go to my 50th reunion. As the past ones have been at a bar/restaurant kind of place and people just ‘mingled’, mostly in the bar, I’m thinking that’s not worth the effort for me, nor something that sounds like a good time. And yet, if I found out that those two people who I would fiercely like to hug were there, I’d be upset with myself.

At least I’ve got some time to think about it – as I said, if I’m even still alive when it gets closer. Maybe I’ll be able to find a “Plus One” for an escort so I won’t feel like the same wallflower I felt back in high school. Who knows???

The Lady with All the Answers

My bestie and I went to see a show by this name at nearby DCP (Dutch Country Players) Theatre. We knew it was going to have some humor attached, since it was drawn from the life and letters of Ann Landers. In case you’re not old enough to know who this gem (with her identical twin sister) is, here is a little background. Ester Pauline (nicknamed Eppie) and Pauline Ester (nicknamed Popo) were born on July 4, 1918. Both sisters became advice columnists – Eppie as Ann Landers and Popo as Dear Abby.

The tickets were inexpensive as shows go, although DCP Theatre is an independent small venue where actors as well as stage hands, ushers, etc. are all volunteers. Masks were required inside and ticket sales were set at a less than 100% full seating status so both of us felt comfortable.

The show was a monologue, done in two acts. With a 15-minute intermission, it lasted about 2 hours and 20 minutes. As expected, everyone in the audience had multiple eye-roll moments as some of the letters written to Ann Landers couldn’t help but make you think that, in the game of survival of the smartest, these people never even got to the starting gate. Plus, the story acted out takes place in 1975, and we all know that society isn’t nearly as tied into the protocol of what should and should not be said.

Anyhow, the most interesting part of this afternoon out was discovering who Ann Landers was when she was just Eppie Lederer, wife to Jules Lederer and mother to daughter, Margo, as well as twin sister to Popo. I admit to having some fascination with discovering who celebrities and famous people really are when they take away the mask they wear in front of the audiences they ‘entertain’. Maybe my fascination has to do with discovering how many years I myself had been wearing a mask to be (or pretend to be) what people wanted to see me be, but seeing these well-known people have trials and errors in life, experience raw and genuine emotion, just makes me feel closer to them as a person – as a human being.

In 1975, Jules Lederer asked Eppie for a divorce. They had been married 36 years, and as far as we could tell from the story presented on stage, Jules entered a mid-life crisis and fell ‘in love’ with a much younger woman. As we listened to Diane Seader, who so eloquently played the role of Ann Landers/Eppie Lederer, I found myself on the brink of becoming teary-eyed. I could feel the heartache of not only the divorce, but also of having to admit to thousands and thousands of loyal readers that the woman who had been giving relationship advice for all of those years apparently knew nothing. Talk about the sense of ultimate failure!

Having seen this show will excitedly lead me to trying to discover more about the life of Eppie Lederer, and most likely make me look into her twin’s life as well. Who were these two identical twin sisters (born 17 minutes apart, Eppie being the older), born into the Jewish faith in the Bronx and having grown up there, and how did they both end up having, for all intents and purposes, the same career? Was having the same career a result of some genetical make-up or was it based more on sibling rivalry and the need for one-upmanship?

Anyhow, in the end, we learned that the Lady with All the Answers didn’t have all the answers after all. You know what? I think I actually like and admire her more because of that!

Abby, left and Ann, right

At the end of the line…Cemeteries

During my recent visit to my beloved brother, I made a stop at the cemetery where my parent’s ashes are buried on my way home. I had been doing a lot of thinking about my mom and my relationship with her, and realized that, for all of the problems we had in our relationship, there were some good things and some special positive memories that I was choosing to ignore while I continually seemed to focus and lament upon the many negative ones. While I realize I’m merely standing upon a piece of ground that holds no real attachment to her as a living person, it felt like a good place to be to share those thoughts with a thank you for them.

During the subsequent drive home (1-1/2 hours), I thought a lot about cemeteries and what happens to all of those grave sites when there is an end to the line of lineage. My grandparents raised 5 children, 3 of them gave them each 3 grandchildren. My grandfather died first, my grandmother about 10 years after. Because our family was the geographically closest to them during life and to their grave site upon death, my older brother, Mark, took it upon himself to ‘take care of‘ their site and the area around their marker. Four of my cousins had never been to the gravesite, 3 because they lived across the country and 1 because she passed on before my grandparents. Other than my two brothers, then, the other two cousins both resided in Maryland. I guess it was more or less expected that the task would fall within our family, and I am pretty certain that my brother took the task on because he felt obligated as the oldest grandchild living geographically close. It was never discussed or talked about, he simply announced that he was doing so.

Well, Mark has been gone now for 6 years, and I know it with every beat of my heart that no one has visited their gravesite in at least that long, most probably longer. So I’ve begun to wonder about the purpose of cemeteries and markers as they will still be idly sitting there in 100 years with no one caring.

When my mom first died, I only lived about a mile away from the cemetery, and I would stop by fairly regularly. Yes, while my brain understood that she wasn’t there, that tangible sign that this significant person had existed and been a part of my life helped with the need to still feel close to her in some way. Maybe that’s why I kept all of those boxes of photographs, as a tangible marker of people and places and things that mattered to my past. My brother’s ashes, with my dad’s permission, are also buried there, but there is no marker for him.

As I stood there, I realized that it might be my last trip to the actual cemetery and gravesite. I no longer needed it to be a place of active referral of my parents as I had in the past. And I can say with a certain degree of certainty that there may well never be a visit to their marker from anyone else until the end of time. So what’s the purpose? I understand the tradition of burial, but is it time to change the tradition? The expenses are astronomical, as everyone with any sense knows. The cemetery where my parents ashes are buried has gone downhill in upkeep and maintenance (regardless of the sign that had been posted in front of the entrance saying, “Sites available). We had an instance after my dad’s passing which, although everything had been prepaid and planned, took several phone calls to make happen.

Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful that I had that place to go to when I needed to process my grief. I am thankful that I had an opportunity to stop by recently and say aloud the words I wanted to say to my mom. But as I looked out over that vast space of green grass, markers and some flower arrangements/flags, I did start to wonder what that area could be used for that would have an impact even 100 years from now. For example, when those markers mean nothing to anyone, imagine using 2 or 3 sites each to build low-income housing for our veterans, many of whom are homeless. They could be the equivalent of “tiny homes” and could serve a lot of people who served us! And I’m sure, if I wrapped my brain around it, I could find other equally as good ideas, all of which would benefit humanity and not just be another ‘make-a-buck’ idea.

This is going to sit with me for a while, I suspect. There would be opposition by those who are still actively visiting the grave sites, and I completely understand that. Right now it just feels like it’s a waste of space and money when our country is falling apart around us and could better serve us as united Americans in other ways.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Are You Not My Brother?

The poem’s words say it all…..



How is it the color of one’s skin

Somehow defines what is held within

Or the different shape of someone’s eyes

Speaks to all that is found inside


How does a certain ancestry

A derivative of past history

Determine the worth of mortal soul

And relegate them to a given role


How does the God they reflect

Not earn the same kind of respect

That we demand for our own

When who is right remains unknown


How does their place of birth

Determine their only worth

This thing they did not choose

Insignificant and nothing proves


How does their cultural difference

Portray any truth by inference

How do their beloved traditions

Delineate the human condition


How does an odd sounding name

Saddle them with random blame

A long and proud family lineage

Is nothing we should disparage


How does the accent we hear

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Live Hornets in a Dead Hornets’ Nest

One of the wonderful things about a visit with my beloved brother is our conversation. Having the relationship we have means we can talk about anything and everything, and neither one of us needs to consciously prepare mentally or emotionally for whatever comes up in a conversation. Neither of us ever pre-plans topics for our time together in conversation. We just talk.

Of course, our conversations invariably cover family. It’s rather fun to be the only two ones left in what can be considered active family, because it leaves us a lot of people we can dis about without worrying who is listening and whose feelings might be offended or hurt by what we say. And both of us are pretty realistic about our family members – immediate and extended. It’s nice to have a safe place where we can talk about Uncle Fred or Aunt Janine or Cousin Alex (fictional names), and it’s an extremely precious place where we can share thoughts and feelings about parents and sibling and grandparents.

One of the several things that came up during our very recent visit together was the realization that we don’t know much about our parents’ lives before we arrived in this world. Well, we know bits and tidbits about our mom’s life before us because we had ongoing relationships with much of her side of the family. We know next to nothing about our dad, other than parent(s) and siblings and a few cousins by name. I was very young when my mom’s grandmother died, while I could tell you nothing about my dad’s grandparents, not even their names. We knew nothing about his childhood years, his high school years, his time in the service except one, that he flew planes in the Army Air Forces (a separate Air Force was not in existence at that time) and two, that he lied about being a year older than he was so he could enter the service. He joined the service and was active during a war, but we don’t know exactly how active HE was in the war. We assume he was honorably discharged at the end of his service, but that is a 100% assumption and not something we know for fact.

We talked specifically about how little we knew about our dad’s life before we entered it, but as I thought about it later, I realized we knew very little about our mom’s life as well. Both were children of the Great Depression – dad born in 1928 and mom in 1930. But childhoods were never talked about.

As I thought back even more after our visit, I began to realize that, back in those days, most lives were very secretive. My grandfather got cancer, first of the stomach and then of the voice box as well. But no one ever talked about it – I remember that the word “cancer” was a whispered word when it was spoken aloud. There seemed to be this mindset that, if you didn’t say it aloud or talked openly about it, you could, in some sense, try and pretend it wasn’t true. The same could certainly be said about mental health as well, even more so than physical health. Only in much more recent years have we begun to feel more free to talk about these things, ignoring, or in spite of, the stigma involved. And I’m sure it pisses us off in these days that such a stigma still exists – – I try but can’t imagine a time when the mere knowledge of such things as ‘cancer’ and ‘clinical depression’ were considered a sin of some sort!

So what was the purpose and the point of the silence and/or whisperings? Who were we trying to protect? It’s nice to think that silences were kept under the ideological idea that we were protecting others in some way, but I see the truth as being that the silence was a way of people protecting themselves! It was, as I see it, about people not wanting others to know something about themselves that they feared others would judge them for. As I said yet again to my brother, it was the idea that as long as the car in the driveway was relatively new and kept clean, and the lines from the lawn mower’s wheels in the grass were symmetrical, it didn’t matter if the inside of the house was a hoarding station covered in filth or the place where outrageous forms of abuse occurred. It was always about the pretenses….about what people on the outside could see.

This is the place where my brother and I became the black sheep of the family. Our older brother, Mark, adhered to those expectations with the wife and child and nice car and house with a picket fence and a well paying job that brought him both money and accolades from others. It didn’t matter if he hated his job, it didn’t matter if the house was a proverbial ‘money pit’ or if the wife was a bitch (she wasn’t) or the child was a terror (at times, she was). That wasn’t what people saw, and therefore, not how they were judged.

It’s the second half of 2021 now. Dad and Mark both died in 2015. Mom died in 1999. There is no need to protect what people thought about them while they were living their lives. Most of the people they knew who would have judged them are gone for this world as well, those still living in it are no longer a part of their, or our, lives anymore. Sadly, those few remaining ones largely have written us off as “people we used to know in another life time”. So it should be safe to say that the hornet’s nest is dead.

And yet, somehow, there are a few frisky ghost hornets who linger around it, protecting it from being beaten down and opened up for all to see the inside. Brad and I are who are left to know anything we might expect to find if it were to be broken open. And yet, we linger around that dead nest, still encrusted with the cult-fed fear that opening it up will reveal cracks in the armor of the hornet’s bodies who once lived in it, and having some sense of still wanting to protect them from being seen in the shining light of full truth and disclosure. Those hornets, though dead in body, are still very much alive in our minds, and we are stuck between wanting to know what made those hornets who they were and recognizing that there are no answers to be found to that question.

Some years ago, my dad having remarried after my mother’s passing, Brad wrote a long overdue letter to my dad to address something within our family history that was never talked about. That something was the fact that I was sexually abused by dad for a number of years. I’ve never shied away from talking about that as a fact, but I don’t go around talking about it like I’m talking about the weather. I know I am far from the only person who has ever had this happen, and while it took me a whole LOT of years, I did finally find my spot of forgiveness. Dad had been Brad’s hero, and I cost him that hero when he found out. But I ended up telling both of my brothers because they each had children and I, never understanding why I was abused, not feeling sure in my gut that he wouldn’t act that way again if he could get away with it, felt I needed to protect those two babies “just in case”. Anyhow, Brad sent his letter to dad, and I knew about it beforehand. When dad mentioned the letter to me, and I told him I knew about it, he asked me not to tell his wife about what was in the letter. I promised him that I wouldn’t bring up the subject, but assured him that I wouldn’t lie about it if I was ever asked.

At the time that had occurred, I felt really proud of myself for being able to say those words and mean them. Well, the subject of that letter and my response came back up in my recent conversation with Brad, and later on that evening, it dawned on me that the request from my dad had nothing to do with me or my feelings and very much to do with him wanting to protect himself at all costs. And now that damned hornet is buzzing around in my head again and I’m pissed off about the fact that, even then, his need to protect what other people thought of him was so much more important than what happened to me. Trust me, I will not go into detail about the many, many decisions and choices I made in my life because of that abuse. You don’t have the time to read it all and I don’t have the energy to write it all. I will only say that I wish the only affect that abuse had had on me was to have people judge me for it.

But it’s a damned ghost hornet and it’s just going to buzz around until it gets tired and leaves me alone. And in the end, it’s just going to be one more check mark on the side of the list of ways my parent(s) let me down again in order to make them feel better about themselves.

So be aware, my friends – things from your past will never leave you. You may think they are tucked away and neatly dealt with, but please know that those ghosts can – and probably will – come up throughout the rest of your life and buzz around you. Just let them happen, feel what you need to feel, and let them go back to sleep again. And be proud of yourself for knowing they are just ghosts and you no longer have to leave in the reality of their presence and their sting.

Why Falling out of love is a real thing romantic lives change over time.

This is intellectually simple to know! And it’s important to remember!

Readers choice

When you’re madly in love with someone, you likely never think about what it’d feel like to fall out of that love, but it can happen.

In fact, it’s natural over time for couples to transition from passionate to compassionate love, or a “solid and stable form of love” that can lack the fiery passion of a young relationship, according to “The Anatomy of Love,” a site run by relationship researchers. 

Long-term partners also often go through major life changes together, and those changes can affect each partner in different ways. Sometimes, those experiences can bring two people closer together, but other times, they can create distance in relationship and, as a result, feelings of love may wane.

Raising children, deciding to become sober, losing (or gaining) a lot of weight, or becoming disinterested in hobbies that you once shared with your partner can all drive a wedge in a relationship…

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Make Gratitude Your Perspective

My favorite song writer shared a new possible original with us today and asked for our thoughts. This song was both music and lyrics, something he’s just beginning to show us. I so adore his talents that it’s very rare for me not to rave, but the lyrics in this song struck a bit of a sour chord with me.

I obviously don’t have the lyrics in front of me to share them with you, or to see and re-read to make sure I remember exactly what they were. But my perception of a part of them was being told that we can choose to be positive or we can choose to be negative.

I explained later, in a message, how much I didn’t agree with that – that we don’t choose our feelings, although I did agree with the lyrics about choosing our actions and reactions. As someone who has dealt with depression (mostly always mild), I can promise you that if it were possible, when feeling negative, to just flip a switch intellectually and feel positive, I’d be first in line to do so! There is too much psycho-babble from therapists, etc., about how supposedly easy it is to change our way of feeling. And I always argue that we can change our way of thinking but that feelings do not come from our brains.

I got a response back clarifying that the writer was meaning to impart the idea of changing our mindset so that we can see and feel positive things. One of the things mentioned was, for example, to focus on the things we are grateful for, with the idea that positive thoughts will impact our mindset and that mindset might change our emotions.

I’m still working that out for myself with regards to the lyrics, but it reminded me that I do, without conscious thought, sometimes turn my focus to things for which I’m grateful. I do that whenever I’m tired of the pity-party I’m allowing myself to have. For example, sometimes I get very caught up in the constant aches, pains and other ailments that are a part of my medical being. When I get tired of listening to my internal voices whine, I consciously remind myself that I’m in much better shape than so many other people. Yes, there may be physical distress, but I’m not paralyzed and unable to feel anything. And yes, my knees may hurt at times, but my legs aren’t amputated so that my knees have no real function or purpose.

I complain about living in a 200+ old building and that things are antiquated and will probably never see modernization. I have to run the tap in the bathtub for 4 or 5 minutes before hot water starts to come out so I can take my shower. I have to rely on a window air conditioner for relief from the heat. I have to deal with old cast iron radiators for heat, which take up room in what is already a small space. But hey, I’m not homeless – I’m not sleeping on a cardboard box somewhere with no relief of any kind for any type of weather.

Those thoughts put my complaints in perspective quickly and help me to remember how much worse off I could be in so many ways. They force me to stop and really focus on what is positive in my life instead of what is negative, and I quickly move away from my “woe is me” mindset.

So, in that sense – in what he intended the lyrics to mean – I absolutely agree with the message and I look forward to hearing the song again with that in mind. I’m sure I’ll appreciate it much more.

Meanwhile, this chance to think about how gratitude can change our perspective is something we all need to learn how to do. I’m not saying that, at times, our lives don’t “suck”, but if we take a moment to think consciously about how others are suffering more than we are – at whatever we’re suffering – it changes how important we perceive our suffering in a way that makes the suffering at least bearable.

So, what do you find yourself complaining about? Think about people who have it worse than you do, and I promise you’ll feel better!

Wednesday’s Wisdom

When I read this blog, my first thoughts were “Been there, done that”. The struggle to become authentically me was a deep from which I needed to climb. Sometimes I still let a little too the edge of it, so I guess it will be something I will always need to be conscious of.

Just Being Me

There’s not much I need to add to this wisdom really. I guess it resonates with me because for a long time I tried to be the person I thought I needed to be. The person I thought everyone else wanted me to be. I did this to the extent that I didn’t really know who I actually was any more. I lost myself while trying to be what I thought I should be. Losing yourself is hard and it’s not helpful in the long run. Now I’m trying to find myself again. I’m trying to discover who I really am and to be real.

Does this resonate with you? Have you ever tried to be someone you’re not to please others, or for some other reason? Let me know in the comments. 😊

I’m always reading something or other. Books, social media feeds, study notes, blogs and more. Recently…

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When is a bowl not a bowl?

In 1987, I had major surgery. It was a scheduled surgery, at least. I had trouble finding the food in the hospital at all tolerable, so after surgery, I ate next to nothing. A nutritionist nurse came to see me on my third full day after surgery because failure to consume food was the only thing keeping me from discharge. I finally asked if they could bring me a boiled hot dog (not my favorite way to cook a hot dog, but pretty difficult to mess up) and I ate it when it arrived.

I was released from the hospital within 2 hours. I had to have weekly follow-ups with the surgeon for 6 weeks, and after 48 hours, I could shower. I was bandaged pretty well, and supposed to change the bandages no more than 3 days between. Well, lucky me got multiple infections across the surgery site (remember, this was 1987 and there weren’t the breakthroughs of today’s technology, so we’re talking a major incision). At one point, the surgery site looked so bad to me that I couldn’t stand to look at it long enough to change the bandages. Fortunately, I had friends who rode with the local fire company ambulance and several of them helped me. I also ended up going to the surgeon’s office twice weekly, so I didn’t have to deal with it much on my own.

Six months later – yes, six months, half a year – I was finally released from care. It took me several years until I could finally accept the scars that were now a permanent part of my body, made worse because the infections I had ate away at my skin. It’s not a pretty sight, but it is what it is.

What does that have to do with a ceramic bowl, you wonder??? During my stay in the hospital, I received a flower arrangement from a truly dear friend. My husband brought me nothing, friends sent nothing – not even a get-well card, and even the company I worked for sent nothing. In that regard, the flower arrangement became even more significant. Once the flowers had died, the bowl was washed thoroughly and put in the cupboard with other bowls.

That bowl has traveled with me through 6 moves since I’ve had it. There isn’t a time when I take it out of the cupboard that I don’t remember from where – and whom – it came. The person, already a dear person and good friend when I received those flowers, continued to be a strong and active person in my life until passing away.

I remember, when I lived with a roommate before moving here, that I’d sometimes see the bowl in the sink, having been used by said roommate, and always having a fleeting thought of relief that it hadn’t been broken. Don’t get me wrong – it was an oft-used bowl, but my roommate wasn’t the most careful people I know. I’d think sometimes about how I’d react if it were accidentally broken by the roommate, and every time I’d think about it, I’d feel some sense of anger, not because a bowl was broken, but because that bowl had been broken.

Sure, there was a chance it would be ME who would actually break it, and yes, I’d have been angry at myself about it as well. But even now (more than 5 years after my move), how quickly I can feel the anger rise inside me when I visualize this person breaking that bowl.

I’m continuing on this project of sorting through pictures, and recently came upon a photograph of the floral arrangement in the bowl as it was when I received it. I’m certain that’s what sparked all of the feelings I’m having about it now. I didn’t keep the picture, didn’t even scan it. The same is true of quite a few photos I came across that would have no significance to anyone other than me. Besides, I still have the bowl; in fact, I used it yesterday.

My title for this post might be misleading, since it is a bowl and it will always be a bowl. But it’s a significant treasure to me more than just its usefulness. And, because it has a usefulness and is, indeed, used regularly, it isn’t something I feel obligated to give away in a donations box as I try to simplify my life because it has no purpose. In fact, it might be the first thing I’ve come upon that has a usefulness, not just a meaningful significance! So, sorry, brother dearest, it’s staying with me!