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My wife and I have kids and grandkids strewn from Virginia to California, her sons

in the Bay Area being the closest relatives.  So here’s the family you’d meet when

visiting the farm.  I’m nearby on the “Aboot” page.  This is the rest of the crew:

JUDE: the last in a series of wives.  We met on a locked

psych unit.  I like to tell people that she was the charge

nurse when I took myself in for an estimate. Actually, I

was there first, on night shift, when she started working

there.  I was attracted to her straightaway, but we were

both on the tail end of other relationships.  She was sur-

prised when I finally asked her out for the coffee date

because she thought I was gay — apparently since I was

polite and watched my weight.

While we were hitting it off at IHOP, my mother was breaking her hip in Kansas.

Just before I headed back east, I asked Jude if I could call her while I helped Ma

with her rehab.  We courted by phone.  We fell in love on the phone.  We were on

the phone when the second plane hit the World Trade Center.  By then our souls

were fused.

What I want you to understand most about her is that her beauty goes all the way

through.  She gives and gives, yet knows when she’s given enough.  And she’s not

cursed with perfection.  She has one serious flaw — she cannot or will not acknow-

ledge the massive difference between watching a sporting event live on TV and

watching a tape of it later.

ROAMEO:  a mix of pit bull and golden

He was a rescue dog who rescued him-

self.  He wandered into the barn of a

friend of Jude.  An escapee from a dog

fighting ring, he had cuts on his head

and chest.  At age 14, his physical pain

overtook his will to live.  We had him

euthanized in 2011.  Rest easy, bud.

SLINKEE: our beta pet with eyes on the

throne.  Part collie, part retriever and I

like to think that there was a wolf in the

woodpile.  Another rescue dog, she was

picked out at the shelter by Roameo.

I’ve never met a more exuberant being.

Everyone is her best friend.  Her huge

wagging tail cools us in the summer

and chills us in the winter.  She patrols our little valley with regal bearing.  I can’t

imagine the farm without her, but we had to put her down this April.

OLLIE: officially Oliver Purr Twist,

he was literally dumped in Jude’s

lap on a home visit with a hospice

client.  Ollie has no assignment in the

family constellation because he lives

in a parallel universe.  He is even in-

different to gravity.  To him, there is

no time that can’t be playtime, there

is no object that can’t be a toy.  A superb mouser, he excels at the hunt outside

as well.  He brings in birds and mammals ranging from shrews to minks.  We dare

not go barefoot inside.

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