Vinnie’s Mom Can Use a Little Help


On the road, somewhere in Texas heading west.

“Don’t talk to me. I’m going to sleep until we come back for Dexter. I don’t care if it’s forever,” says Vinnie from somewhere in deep recesses of the SUV.

“Vincent, come up her and get buckled into your seat,” says Vinnie’s mom.


“Vincent, I’m warning you. Unless you come into your seat this moment, no tablet privileges for one year,” threatens Vinnie’s mom.

An eight-year old boy’s voice rises from the rear of the SUV, “I can’t Mom, Rupert won’t let me.”

Vinnie’s mom turns toward Vinnie’s dad, “I could use a little help here.”

“What, Dear? I was setting our GPS,” says Vinnie’s dad. Vinnie’s dad takes his eye off the GPS screen and takes a quick glimpse toward Vinnie’s mom. He’s only seen this look twice before and both times it didn’t turn out well for him. He says, “I’ll take care of it.” 

Vinnie’s dad pulls over to the breakdown lane, puts the SUV in park, opens his door, walks around to the rear of the SUV and opens the hatch. He starts moving suitcases around. He doesn’t see Vinnie or Rupert. He unpacks the SUV. His temperature rising with each suitcase he lifts out. Three suitcases are out when he says, “Vincent, if you’re hiding in the wheel well, Rupert is going to ride up front with Mom and me for the whole trip.”

From the seat behind Vinnie’s Mom, “Whatcha talking about, Dad. I’m buckled in and ready to go on vacation. Why are you unpacking the car? Did you change your mind about going on vacation? If you changed your mind, can we get Dexter? Hi, Mom. Did you know I was right behind you the whole time? I was only kidding about sleeping until we come home. Are we going to stop for breakfast. I’m starving. What’s taking Dad so long?

Five minutes later, Vinnie’s dad is buckled in the driver’s seat. He half turns and says, “Is everyone ready? We’re going to have a great time.”

Vinnie’s mom says, “We’re off to a great start.”

Vinnie’s dad understands Vinnie’s mom is not being sincere. It’s a female subtlety that most men never learn to interpret. Vinnie illustrates the male lack of understanding females gene, “That’s how I feel, Mom. Can I use your iPhone to call Dexter, please?”

Vinnie’s mom says, “Vincent, we only pulled out of the Doggie Palace parking lot fifteen minutes ago. Besides, Dexter doesn’t have a cell phone so you can’t call him.”

Vinnie says, “Yes he does, Mom. I wanted to see if he’d answer it. Dexter might be the smartest beagle alive.”

Vinnie’s mom turns her head back toward Vinnie, “Explain to me how Dexter has a cell phone. You’re making this up, right?” Vinnie’s mom instinctively reaches into her handbag and fishes for her iPhone. She has a jolt of of relief when her fingers wrap around the iPhone.

Vinnie says, “I gave Dexter Dad’s iPhone.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “What?”

“Thanks, Dad. When we took Dexter inside and you asked me to hold your iPhone while you signed papers, I walked back to say goodbye to Dexter. I put your iPhone next to Dexter’s bowl of water.”

“Oh, no,” says Vinnie’s dad, putting the car in drive, signaling to pull out and making a U Turn. Ten minutes later, Vinnie’s dad runs toward the front door of Doggie Palace.



Grieving Became My Teacher

I wrote Dancing Alone: Learning to Live Again in real time. Grieving became my teacher. It taught me many valuable lessons. Here is an excerpt illustrating one of those lessons:

“I learned those who grieve become invisible to many people. I now know what it is like to walk among those who grieve. In the past, if I caught a hint of their suffering, I kept them at a safe distance. I offered a short hug and kind words such as, “I’m sorry for your loss,” and “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” I now walk among them, invisible to those who have not yet experienced grieving.”

Ordering information for the paperback or ebook version of Dancing Alone: Learning to Live Again may be found here.

Excerpt From Dancing Alone: Learning to Live Again by Ray Calabrese

This material is protected by copyright

Grieving’s Tough – You’ll Pull Through

Dancing Alone: Learning to Live Again tells my story of grieving the loss of my best friend and wife; and, my efforts to learn to live again. My wife, Babe, was as healthy as any human being can get. She was a vegetarian, exercised regularly, and never felt sick, until … She was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma. Ten weeks after her diagnosis, I said goodbye. My grieving began. That was nearly three years ago. I began writing as soon as the last guest left because I wanted to document what I experienced and see if I could find a way through my living hell. It wasn’t easy. The low points always seemed to have an upper hand. There were times when I thought I’d never be happy. I found my way through. I’m now happy. I don’t have what I once had, but I’m grateful I had it. 

Over the next few weeks I will share excerpts from Dancing Alone: Learning to Live Again with you. If you are grieving, or have deeply grieved a loss, you’ll relate. If you’ve not experienced a deep loss, the book will help to understand the grieving experience of those you know and love .

Ordering information for the paperback or ebook version of Dancing Alone: Learning to Live Again may be found here.

Vinnie’s Mom Wants a Get Out of Jail Card


Vinnie’s mom checks her iWatch. She says, “Vinnie, I’ve got to start making lunch if we’re going to eat. We better finish the game. It’s been great fun.”

Vinnie says, “What time is it, Mom? I’m not hungry. Dexter’s hungry. Can I get him a snack?”

“No, you may not get Dexter a snack. His belly is practically dragging on the floor.”

“It’s all muscle, Mom. Dexter doesn’t have any fat,” says Vinnie.

Dexter hears his name. He’s up on all fours. The only time he hears his name is when he is taken outside, taken on a walk, or fed. Dexter figures since no one is holding a leash or has a coat on, it must be lunch time.

“What time is it, Mom. You forgot to tell me,” says Vinnie.

“It’s ten-fifteen.”

“Mom, we never eat this early on Saturdays. We can still play for another hour and a half.”

Vinnie’s dad glances at Vinnie’s mom, “Not too much gets by Vinnie, Dear.” He pauses for a moment, then looks at Vinnie, “Vinnie, Mom’s ready for your question.”

“Great, Mom. I have one I know you can answer. It’s about your mom,” says Vinnie.

“Vinnie, you didn’t reach into the lunch box for the question,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“That’s the best part of the game, Mom. I can make up questions as they pop into my head. Right now, my head sounds like a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Can I make some after you answer this question? I’ll make enough for you and Dad, too.”

Vinnie’s mom says, “Is there a get out of jail card in this game? I need one.”

Vinnie starts laughing. He says, “That’s a good one, Mom. You’re in the wrong game. We’re not playing Monopoly. That’s probably why you’re losing.”

“Please, Vincent, ask me the easy question about Gramma.”

“Okay, Mom. When Gramma and Grampa stay with us or we visit them, how come Gramma doesn’t have any teeth in her mouth when she gets up? Her lips curl over her gums and she looks scary. Follow up question, Mom. Where does she put her teeth when she takes them out? Didn’t she learn to floss and brush after every meal? Will I lose all my teeth like Gramma? Did she get a dollar under her pillow for each of her teeth? Did she wake up one morning and they were loose? Will she grow a third set of teeth if she eats right? Dad, Why is Mom closing her eyes and pressing her hands against her head?”

Vinnie’s dad stands up, stretches his arms over his head, “It might be a good idea if you made popcorn for us.”

Vinnie trots off to the kitchen carrying Rupert. Dexter follows Vinnie and Rupert. Dexter knows there will be no possible food action at the dinning room table until Vinnie returns. Besides, when Vinnie heads into the kitchen and his mom is in another room, Dexter sees a world of possibilities.

Vinnie’s dad starts rubbing Vinnie’s mom’s shoulders, “It’s okay, Dear. I apologize for everything even the things I don’t know I’m apologizing for.”

Vinnie’s mom twists her head slightly looking up at Vinnie’s dad from the table, “The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”

Back in the kitchen, Vinnie puts a raw tofu hot dog in Rupert’s hands, “Rupert, Mom said I’m not allowed to feed Dexter now. She didn’t say anything about you. Give this hotdog to Dexter.” 

Vinnie bends over pressing Rupert’s front paws around a tofu hot dog. Dexter is on his haunches, his tongue hanging out leaving drool on the kitchen floor. Vinnie uses Rupert’s voice, “Dexter, stand.”

From the living room, Vinnie’s mom says to Vinnie’s dad, “OMG, I didn’t tell him Rupert couldn’t feed Dexter.


Vinnie’s Mom Asks If There Is Any Hope


Vinnie’s sitting on the floor huddling with Rupert and Dexter. Vinnie’s mom whispers to Vinnie’s dad, “Let’s end this. I don’t know how much more I can take.”

“You know what the psychologist told us, Dear. He said Vinnie is very creative and we need to encourage him,” whispers Vinnie’s dad.

“That’s true, but the psychologist doesn’t live with him,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“I agree, it’s all about finding the right balance,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“When do you think we’ll find it?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s dad pauses for a moment, then says, “Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about these kinds of family situations.”

“And …” Vinnie’s mom encourages Vinnie’s dad to continue.

“Are you ready for this?” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Don’t tell me there is no hope,” says Vinnie’s mom. “Well ….?”

“You told me not to tell you,” says Vinnie’s dad.

Vinnie pops up from underneath the table. “No hope for what, Mom?”

“You have very big ears, Vinnie,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie feels each of his ears with his hands. He twists them forward and backward. He says, “I think they’re just the right size, Mom. You should see Marty’s ears, they look like …”

“Don’t say anything that is disrespectful about Marty. He can’t help it his ears are big,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Mom, do big ears make you hear better? Because Dad doesn’t always hear what you say. So, I must take after you. Do you have big ears?”

Vinnie’s dad turns a bit toward Vinnie’s mom. Vinnie’s mom takes her ponytail out and lets her hair hang over her ears. “My ears are perfect for my head, like yours.”

“Why did you say I had big ears, Mom? Why, Mom?”

“It was only an expression because you hear everything.”

“You get five points for the answer, Mom. Dad gets minus five because he doesn’t listen to you.”

“What did I do? I’m sitting here minding my business. Let’s have the final question,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“You asked for it, Dad. “Did you ever smoke pot in high school or college?”

“Where did you get this question?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“I didn’t think of it, Dad. It’s Dexter’s question. I think Monica’s mother smokes pot.”

Vinnie’s mom says, “You don’t even know Monica’s mother. Did Monica tell you her mother smoked pot?”

“No, Mom. When I was waiting for bus on Friday outside school. Monica’s mom and her little brother came to get her, she had to go to the orthodontist.”

“And …” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Monica’s little brother whispered something in Monica’s mother’s ear. Then she said, We’ll go pot when we get home. That’s bad, right, Mom? Should I tell Mrs. Navis and tell her to call the police?”

“Heavens no. The poor little boy had to go to the bathroom, that’s all. Some people use pot or potty with little kids,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s dad interrupts, “Can I answer the question why you can’t always do what you want to do?”

Vinnie glances at his dad, “Where’d you get that question, Dad?”