Living in the Precious Present (If You Can Find It)

by Bill Brenner June 6, 2016 Communication skills for the crazy

One of the basic traits of someone with OCD is an inability to live in the moment. Learning to do so is one of my big projects at the moment.   I’m better at living in the precious present than I used to be. I can remember being a kid, always daydreaming about the future: what I’d look like and how cool my life would be if I were thinner, the clothes I would wear,…  [Read More]

Nana’s Desk

by Bill Brenner September 9, 2015 Family

It’s been more than two years since Nana Ruth passed away. The other day, family went through her house, looking for possessions to be preserved. Like this desk: Nana Ruth did a ton of writing at this desk. She was a prolific diarist and churned out a lot of letters. I’m going to keep the tradition alive my doing a lot more writing here. I’d like to think she’d be pleased about that.

Dad Was a Survivor

by Bill Brenner June 29, 2015 Family

Note: This is not Dad’s official obituary — just my tribute to him. Thursday we gathered by Dad’s bedside to say goodbye. He lived for three more days. That was Dad. He was a survivor, tougher than leather and stubborn to the last. Around 3 this afternoon, his journey finally ended. Mood music: The last two months with him were a gift. By the end, nothing was left unsaid. He knew how I felt about him and I knew…  [Read More]

Thanks for Everything, Aunt Marlene

by Bill Brenner June 23, 2015 Family

Marlene Brenner died yesterday at the age of 68. She was my aunt — my father’s younger sister — and I owe her a lot. Mood music: Aunt Marlene was a constant presence in my childhood. With my siblings and grandmother, we’d go on trips to the White Mountains and lakes of New Hampshire. Many a family meal was had at her house in the Point of Pines, Revere, which was a quick walk from…  [Read More]

Uncle Jacob

by Bill Brenner June 3, 2015 Family

I knew there were heroes in my family. My maternal grandfather fought in some of history’s bloodiest battles and lived to tell us about it. But I never knew my Uncle Jacob. Not until a box of photos and service awards came into my possession. Mood music: I always knew my father had two deceased uncles. My grandmother would show me her old family scrapbooks all the time when I was a kid, and I…  [Read More]

“Cat’s in the Cradle”

by Bill Brenner May 4, 2015 Family

The Harry Chapin song “Cat’s in the Cradle” has been running through my head a lot. I’ve been taking my work to my father’s hospice room, which is a reversal of roles. It used to be that I hung out while my father worked. Mood music: My childhood doesn’t fit the song 100 percent. Truth is I was around my dad a lot. But we may as well been in separate places, because he was…  [Read More]

A Bedside Conversation with Dad

by Bill Brenner April 30, 2015 Family

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my father, who is in hospice care. One of the twisted blessings of him being near the end of his life is that he’s opening up more than he ever has. One such conversation goes to show that things you see as a kid don’t always match up with what’s really going on. Mood music: Like a lot of families, we’ve hit our financial walls over the years and a few…  [Read More]

My Introduction to Hospice Care

by Bill Brenner April 28, 2015 Family

I’ve heard much about the blessings of hospice care, but I hadn’t seen it firsthand until now. After four years of illness, my father has decided he’s fought long enough and has chosen hospice care for the endgame. Mood music: We visited him Saturday, and he looked and sounded better than he has in a long, long time. He was alert, his talking was clear, and he was smiling the whole time. He’s made his…  [Read More]

Anatomy of an Identity Crisis

by Bill Brenner February 4, 2015 Family

When a sibling’s death turns the baby of the family into the oldest son, you get an identity crisis filled with anger and confusion. Mood music: I’ve written at length about my brother Michael, who died of an asthma attack when I was 13. That experience will test any kid, and I was no exception. The loss infused a deep reservoir of fear and anxiety in me that would bubble up many times over the years….  [Read More]

The Sister Who Saved Her Family

by Bill Brenner December 28, 2014 Family

My youngest sister, Shira Beth Brenner, was born 29 years ago today, sending rays of sunshine into a house that was in darkness. You might think it’s hyperbole for me to say she saved the family. We were surviving, after all. But we were surviving badly, reeling from the death of my brother barely two years before. Shira helped us smile again. Mood music: I was a bitter 15-year-old home sick with the flu and a Crohn’s…  [Read More]