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  • Dear Family and Friends,

    Please accept this feeble atonement for ignoring you all year. I cannot feign ignorance of your important milestones – the births, weddings, graduations, illnesses and passings from this land of woe. They seep in on Facebook, Twitter, email and Aunt Lulu's everlasting stream of gossip. (What will we do when she's gone?) So what's my excuse for not hitting the Reply button? To put a fine point on it, I've usually been too depressed to really care.

    I think about death a lot. The whole planet seems to reek of it. I see more road kill than I used to, and only people I like seem to die, not those other bastards. So to take my mind off morbidity, let me tell you what has been going on in our family circle at this time of cheer.

    Everybody has to die, but not everyone has to put on 35 pounds after losing a job held for 27 years, as cousin Eddy has. Geez, I thought that's when you tighten your belt, not drill new holes in it. Maybe Eddy should try switching from Bud to gin – all the delirium with half the calories.

    Speaking of gin, it's great to hear rumors that Aunt Monica is sober now! I'm sure she found the "won't power" after screwing up her courage to kick out that philanderer Arthur. I hope she can keep it together and find a decent man to nag.

    OK, here's something I bet you didn't know. My brother Billy's wife Anne had an affair with their daughter's ex-teacher, Ms. Mello, who is quite a looker. I think it's over now, thank goodness, because it drove poor Billy nuts. He couldn't decide whether to punch out the interloper or join the fun.

    Closer to home, I am proud that my slacker son Teddy is finally showing some gumption. When his girlfriend told him either he or his drum set had to go, he chose both options. You know the old joke, what do you call a drummer without a girlfriend? Homeless. Well, not quite … Teddy is bunking with his guitarist buddy Scott in his old school bus. The bad part is that it's parked in our back yard and the whole neighborhood is being treated to their jamming. When I can't take it any more I bolt the doors and shut off the power to their extension cord until the next day.

    We are thrilled to say that our daughter Minerva started high school this year and made the junior varsity girls lacrosse team. Does anybody know what the heck lacrosse is? I hope it doesn't require expensive gear. Her grades are OK so far, but we worry she's falling in with the wrong crowd. Get this, they sit around in ice cream parlors and basements and read epic poetry to each other! Gilgamesh, Paradise Lost, Beowulf, The Iliad, stuff like that. Now Minerva wants a bronze shield and helmet for her birthday. We worry that this will not help her find employment.

    Speaking of employment, Lillian and I were both downsized two years ago and haven't yet regained full stature. Well, first she was upsized. The year before, her principal got rid of another fourth grade teacher and folded her class into Lillian's. Then when the kids' test scores went south the jerk said Lillian wasn't doing her job and canned her too. At least there is some justice. Now the principal has two schools to oversee.

    My job in Appleby's HR department was going well until they asked me to make up a brochure telling prospective employees what a great place it is to work. My mistake was to go around interviewing actual employees to get them to say how they liked working there in their own words. Not one would talk for the record, so I had to let them be anonymous. But I got some great quotes, like "It's fun to switch the half-and-half with the non-dairy creamer;" "It almost pays the bills while I'm getting my pet groomer certification;" "I like random, and that's what our shifts are;" "Awesome food fights;" "At least I haven't been sexually harassed in over six months." I thought my brochure would appeal to the twentysomethings that Appleby's likes to hire but the company lawyers didn't see it that way.

    Well, the gin has taken its toll so it's time for me to sign off. I am thinking warmly of each and every one of you when I say Happy Hanukwanzamas to all, and may you have all the joy you deserve during this festive holiday season.

    Oh, the photo shows Minerva, Lillian and I at Lillian's Uncle Phil's funeral reception last April. Enjoy!

    Max, Lillian, Teddy, Minerva and the late Poncho the Cat who got run over in October, speaking of road kill
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