• Tommy Brimley as a baby looking into his house in DC
    Things That Suck

    Keep Walking Past That Door

    I have another root canal today. It’s my second one in the past few months. For the first one, I had to leave Shawn at the hospital and go get the root canal and then come back immediately afterwards to be with him. He was having a hard time getting around at that point, and so he would make big goals like walking around the entire hospital wing three times. He’d wait for me to come to the hospital, and whenever I was there, we’d do his workout for the day. It was like watching someone do an Olympic event – he worked so damn hard, focusing on the task…

  • Brimley family of five before Marjorie became a widow
    Things That Suck

    Press Fast-Forward

    “You know what I wish right now?” I asked my friend Christine. I was drinking a beer with her on a beautiful day, watching our children play in an idyllic setting. “What?” she asked. “I wish I could press fast forward on my life,” I told her. I meant it. I’ve never felt this way. Even when things were hard throughout my life, like when I was teaching in a really difficult school or homesick in a foreign country, I still loved my life as a whole. It’s one of the things I think people like about me. I’m over-the-top positive, so much so that people will say things like,…

  • Marjorie and Shawn Brimley dancing at wedding in Washington DC
    Missing Shawn

    “You look hot, by the way”

    Two days before he died, Shawn was up at night, sick from chemotherapy and the cancer that was racking his body. It was about 2 am, and I stumbled out of bed in just a tank top and underwear, rushing to get him a towel to help him wash his face. He could barely walk, but he had managed to get himself to the bathroom without my help, and I was just standing there, trying to figure out what was the best thing for him. “What can I do for you?” I asked him. “Nothing,” he said. He paused.  Then he turned and looked at me and said, “you look…

  • Claire Brimley's birthday party pinata "Uni"

    My First Sleepover Birthday Party

    Claire turned nine a few days ago, and last night was her birthday party.  She begged me for a sleepover.  I relented because 1) it seemed easier than any other alternative and 2) right now I’m trying to let my kids have as much fun as they can. I only let her invite a few kids and the night started out fine.  Not perfect, because the unicorn pinata I bought was decapitated after one single hit to the head, but everyone seemed to be having fun otherwise.  Very quickly, however, it became clear that this party was not going to be easy for me. Take the cake.  I had actually…

  • Brimley kids having fun without parents
    Things That Suck

    It Can Always Get Worse

    Many years ago, when I had just moved to my current neighborhood, I went out to dinner with my new friend Becky, who I met through our kids’ preschool. I didn’t know her that well yet, but I knew she was fun and up for taking 4 kids under 4 out to dinner at our local Mexican restaurant. It was insane. Our 3-year-olds threw chips everywhere and wouldn’t stay in their seats. Her 1-year-old was crying and mine was drinking the salsa like it was water. We had both just worked all day and then were dealing with this. I looked at her, exasperated, and said, “my God, could it…

  • Shawn Brimley with a pumpkin on his head for Halloween
    Missing Shawn

    There’s No Crying at the Swim-Up Bar

    It was beautiful – paradise in fact – and there I was, crying at the swim-up bar. The winter this year was bleak on the east coast, which in some ways was nice because the weather matched my emotional state. But months of grief and ice were getting to me and to my kids and spring break beckoned. So, we packed everything up and headed south, to somewhere that would maybe provide an escape from all the cold and misery and death. For the first few days, it was bliss, or as close to bliss as I’d felt since early fall. The weather was perfect and the beach was beautiful.…