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  • MY FIRST MARRIAGE started out the way most of them do -- full of passion, hope, love, and more passion. We started out on a shoestring, on the salary of a night-side city desk reporter/rewrite man on the staff of the late, great Philadelphia Evening & Sunday Bulletin. The marriage was reasonably happy for seven years.

    It ended when we divorced in 1993. And it REALLY ended (in the alimony/shared parenthood sense) when she died about twelve years later.

    After seven years and two lovely daughters, something short-circuited in my wife's brain, and we entered upon thirteen years of hell -- suicide attempts, self-mutilations, hospitalizations, a parade of psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, clergypersons. The separation became inevitable after she attacked me in the kitchen with a wrought-iron fireplace poker during a dinner party the night before Christmas Eve, 1990.

    What followed after the holidays that year was the darkest, grayest, saddest, loneliest time of my life. During that time, I bought a small Tiffany-style lamp with a blue shade, which I placed on a shelf in the living room, lit by a low-wattage night-light bulb. That lamp was a symbolic reflection of my mood in those days.

    My daughters -- now teen-agers -- and I forged an unbreakable bond of mutual love and support as we made our way through the uncertain months of January, February and March. I found myself challenged in the simplest things -- cooking, for example.

    Both the girls had declared themselves devoutly vegetarian, which meant Dad had his hands full learning the mysteries of stir-frying and vegetarian cooking. The girls became as much a source of strength and courage for me as I hope I was for them. Not to mention being at least the inspiration toward a much healthier diet (even though I wasn't quite as devout as they were about the veggie business).

    Now at Christmas 2012, I sit here at my desk on a grey, cloudy Christmas Eve afternoon. That little blue lamp burns away on its shelf in the living room. My wonderful present wife is still at work (scientist), and my wonderful daughters are spending their holidays in Chicago and rural Ohio respectively, with their "other" families.

    Try as I might to bootstrap myself out of it, I'm suffering from a touch of the holiday blues -- a sense of all the water that's passed beneath my keel, as our friend Benjy might say.

    Ah, so. This too will pass. Thanks for listening.
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