“Just pick up fast food!”

My husband was out of town.

Gosh, if only it were that easy.

I feel like I’ve spent adulthood explaining this notion of “privilege” without realizing I’ve even done so. 

Fast food?

That’s privilege, at least for my family. 

We have a child with severe food allergies so “fast food” is not an option.  

Instead, we have to plan painstakingly ahead. 

“You were meant to be her mother.”

Was I, really?

What did I do in my past life to deserve this honor?

That’s what I would like to know. 

It’s not her fault and it’s not mine either, or maybe it is- I don’t even know anymore. 

What I DO know is that giving grace to any and everyone is the very best thing we can ever do. 

Because, how otherwise, could we ever truly know their story?

We cannot. 

So, we give grace. 

Always, we give grace. 

Camille Vaughan Photography


Dear Daughter,

As your grandfather reaches the end of his life, I find myself craving more. 

More time.  More information.  What was his life really like?  How did he come to be who he is today?

So, I figured I’d make it a little easier on you. 

I was born in the early 1980s, when TVs still had antennas, or as we liked to call them: rabbit ears.

If the show was fuzzy, I had to get up and move the rabbit ears to try and get the station back in tune.  

There was no remote. Instead, I had to get up and turn the knob for the very few channels available to us.  

There was no choosing what we wanted to watch.  We watched what the stations offered.

Sometime in the 1990s, we got a tv with a remote and cable which offered a lot more channels.  Still, we found out what was playing by reading the newspaper, The Virginian Pilot, which printed a schedule of shows by the hour.  

I vividly remember channel 99 because we didn’t “subscribe” to that channel but there was a lot of moaning and an occasional boob or two amidst the fuzziness- chaotic, zig-zag lines that perpetually moved down the screen so you couldn’t get a clear view.  I was equally confused and fascinated, wondering what these people were doing. 

Yikes. Now, I know. 

My grandmother had a rotary phone- one where the numbers were displayed in a circle formation and you rotated the dial on the front for each number.  I loved it when someone had a nine in their number because I got to move the dial almost a full 360 degrees!  

We had a phone with a very long cord so that my teenage sisters could walk into another room from the kitchen and close the door to have their private conversations.  

Sometime in the 1990s, the “sneaker phone” was all the rage and boy, you know I had one, too!  It looked like a shoe but was actually a phone (with a cord of course)!  That was the bees knees.  

When I heard a song on the radio that I loved, I had to quickly find a blank cassette tape to record the song if I wanted to be able to hear it again.  Cassette tapes were four inch long plastic cases that held magnetic recording tape.  Sometimes, I accidentally recorded over another song that I loved and there was no going back.  Once it was replaced, it was gone.  

I lost many a tragic recordings to this oversight. 

I also eventually got a boombox that had TWO cassette tape players, which meant I could copy one tape to the other, making “mix tapes” for my friends.  I would create a playlist of my favorite songs, decorate the plastic cover, paper insert and plastic case and give it to them as a  sign of my love and friendship.  It took a long time, so it was a gift from the heart.  

The same went for movies.  We had VHS tapes, not DVDs.  If you wanted to jump to a certain part of the movie, you had to fast-forward.  If you wanted to go back and re-watch, you had to rewind.  It wasn’t as easy as choosing a “scene”, so you really had to want it to make the effort. 

I think that’s what I’m learning from my dad. 

He was born in 1931. 

Everything took more effort, then. 

And even in the 1980s, things took more time. 

Now, it’s faster. 

And yet, I frequently feel the need to slow down. 

Your dad, born in the 1970s, really works hard to keep you all grounded. 

To keep you playing outside.  

Often shoeless. 

So, when things feel too fast.  

Cast off those shoes. 

Head outside. 

Remember where you came from.  

And slow down.  

Dear Daughter,

Stay grounded.  


I was in the room when the doctor announced “There appears to be a mass behind your aorta.”  

My father is an intelligent man and although we spent the rest of the week in the hospital for the biopsy and a week more for results, we both knew. 

Fucking cancer. 

I wish I had words for the experience of breath leaving your body. 

It’s as if time stops.  

Short enough for no one else to notice but long enough to recognize when it begins again. 

She left the room. 

And we just stared at one another, half smiling. 

“So this is how it ends.”  He almost chuckled.  

Even when you’re 91, you never expect it. 

And ignorantly, neither did I.  

Weeks later we were having breakfast together, discussing death (as one does when upon death’s door) when he did one of my favorite things:

He spoke in poetry. 

“Death, be no proud, though some have called thee . . .”

I asked him if he had a copy of the poem and he described the color, size and feel of the book I should look for on the wall-to-wall bookshelf.

I found it, along with many of his other favorite poems and (as one does when upon death’s door), I asked him to share. 

Because at the end, isn’t that what we all seek?

Time to share. 


Let us share. 

Written by John Donne. This poem essentially laughs at death.
Death thinks he wins but in the end, we live eternally in the after-life.


“This is my dad,”

I introduce my step-dad to my boarding school Headmistress.

“And this is my Dick.”

I introduce my biological father. 

We all inwardly and outwardly cringe.

“I mean, this is Dick.  My father.  Dick Parise.”

Crawl in a hole. Die. I’m 15. Please, just let me go ahead and die.  

Here they both are- a rare moment- both of my fathers.

The one who created me and the one who raised me.

A chuckle. A laugh.  An inward mortification. We move on to pleasantries.  

But then came my wedding less than a decade a later. 

I’d always imagined both of them on each arm. 

But then he said, after their divorce, “You know that would be hard for me.”

I paused and reconsidered the definition of “dad”. 

And then, I walked down the aisle with my father.