Posts Tagged ‘family and relationships’

I am currently attending a course on becoming an End of Life Doula. It fits in with my job and is something I have been interested in for quite a few years. It has been a very interesting journey so far. As part of our homework for the 2nd part of the course this weekend, we had to complete a few exercises relative to what we learned/experienced at the first weekend, so the first place I started was at http://kristiewest.com/aboutkristiewest/

Kristie is a long-standing friend of mine and I have always admired her approach to life and death. We actually met at an event where her path in life changed course, and took her on the journey that was to lead her to where she is now, and to specialising in her field of expertise. I’d like to share this with you because I fully believe that what she shares can have a profound affect on how we view or approach death and grief.

The course I’m doing has so far been very interesting and surprisingly the first section didn’t actually deal with death at all, but rather about our, the participants, beliefs and values. The exercises we did all revolved around us, the potential Doula and about how we think of death and relate to people.

We delved into subjects like confidentiality, communication skills, about our attitudes, ethics and most importantly about our listening skills. We spoke abut the types of listening and then we had to share a story from our lives to one of the group while they practised effective listening as another person observed how they ‘listened’. We explored our ideas and again beliefs on a range of subjects from euthanasia, keeping secrets, involving family, about a dying person’s last wishes, rituals about the role we would take and what we would find acceptable in that role or not.

I’m looking forward to the this weekend where we participate in another 2 days of training.


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18 weeks ago today I was still reeling with the stunning, joyful and extraordinary news that my darling girl, my beloved daughter was expecting her first baby!!!

To say that the news came out of the blue like a bolt of lightening would be an understatement. I was hysterical with joy unbounded. They were over the moon, and very emotional. We cried and we rejoiced and cried some more. They’re going to be parents, and I’m going to be a Granny

the miracle of lifeThe baby was just on 4 weeks and 2 days from conception, and according to the chart, just the size of a poppy seed!!

At this stage Peanut was developing what would become his/her brain; the neural tube is forming and the spinal cord.

20180512 the miracle of life

4 weeks and 2 days 🙂


20180512 the miracle of life

We shared the news with some VIP people and I started knitting.

Books on pregnancy littered the house and where at first there was none, suddenly there was a lot…..of baby clothes!!! LOL All the baby clothes that I had kept from when my daughter was a baby, as well as the gorgeous little items I had bought over the years (just because I loved them), made an appearance. I’m delighted that Peanut (baby’s nickname) will be wearing some of the same clothes that Mummy wore when she was a baby.

20180515 baby clothes from south africa

baby will be wearing some of Mummy’s baby clothes….

The next scan came on 29 June 2018 and yes!!!! it’s a real baby 🙂

20180629 the next scan

its a real baby 🙂 extraordinarily tiny

Since then the weeks have flown by, and on 9th July, when baby was just 14 weeks, we went for a private scan and saw this precious little soul on an ultrasound scan

and heard baby’s heartbeat for the first time. It is truly the most extraordinary experience….to hear the heartbeat of a baby from the womb. Look how tiny those little feet and hands were!! ❤

I got so excited (and impatient) I immediately set about sorting the nursery. Simon set up the crib and I unpacked whatever I had to hand 🙂 Soon we had the basics set up and I started the long process of washing all the baby clothes we had bought, the South African baby clothes and the clothes they had been gifted from friends and colleagues.

20180709 peanut is on the way

Mummy & Daddy and the first stages of the nursery

Over these 18 weeks, all baby’s internal organs have developed (healthy and normal), fully formed arms and legs, fingers and toes. Baby has developed ear buds and eyes, can yawn & swallow and has started giving Mummy a few ooofffs in the belly…as this still tiny little creature, weighing just over 500grams, bounces around and flexes legs and arms….a right little gymnast, Peanut is very active LOL

Just 10 days ago I had the most stunning experience of feeling baby kicking…albeit not yet very strong, it was very distinct. I was singing “you are my sunshine” to Peanut at the time and perhaps it was an objection to, or an appreciation of my singing talents!! LOL Not sure yet which.

Baby is now 23 weeks and 5 days from conception and the changes have been phenomenal.

Not only is Peanut now a fully formed little human being, but over the last 18 weeks has been a bit of a shape-shifter; changing from (the size of) a poppy seed to a sweetpea, a raspberry, a blackberry, a hamster, a peach, a lemon, a clownfish, a custard slice, a beet and an avocado pear!!! LOL Peanut is now the size of a juicy bunch of grapes, or a grapefruit…depending on which app you’re reading 🙂

Baby has now formed the air sacs in h/h lungs that will soon be used to breathe!!

With only 16 weeks to go till birth, there are now less weeks till B-Day than there are weeks since I heard the news OMG ❤ ❤ ❤ Truly, if I say I am excited…..that would be the understatement of 2018!!!!

As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, once I returned to earth off cloud 9, I downloaded the Ovia app (a pregnancy app) and started monitoring baby’s progress.

It’s been absolutely amazing to watch how many changes there are each week; body, feet and hands. I’ve read how baby has developed during each & every stage in the last 18 weeks, its truly a miracle of life. Baby didn’t have legs and feet or arms and hands till 8 weeks, but since then they’ve gone from the tiniest little hands and feet you could imagine to now – almost full size……

I wish they would share the type of information that I’ve read on the various pregnancy app in schools alongside of the basic bland practical biological information. Each week has revealed a new level of amazing information.

I remember my Mother always used to say that loved her daughters dearly, and yet the love she felt for her grandchildren was on a different level altogether….I now understand what she meant

20180512 peanut is on the way

I love my Granny – and Granny loves you little Peanut. Can’t wait to meet you ❤

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As I travelled home after finishing my latest assignment I had no idea that within a few hours I was to receive news that would change my life exponentially and forever. News that I been ‘praying’ for, hoping for, but beginning to reconcile myself to possibly not ever getting.

My daughter and her fiancé were busy planning their wedding, now just 2.5 weeks away and it was all systems go. She had the best fun planning this wedding, buying this and that, ordering little surprises for her bridesmaids, flower girls and her Mother (me 😉 ).

So when I got home, tired but excited to be in the final planning stages of the wedding, I had no idea what news was waiting for me. Greeting me at the door as if nothing was different from all the dozens of times I had arrived home after being away, we hugged, chatted briefly and made a cup of tea 🙂

Relaxing in the lounge she said, with a very straight face, that she had a little gift for me! Oh, that girl. Always full of gifts and surprises for people. I had no idea what to expect and set about opening the gift-wrapped box, thinking it was probably something to do with the wedding………little did I know.

Holding her phone up to record my reaction, and with firm instructions to not shake the box, to hold it still and open it at a certain angle, I complied. I’m used to her doing this type of thing, so my expectations were that it had something to do with the wedding, possibly something made of glass, which is why when I saw what was in the box, it took a good few seconds for my brain to register what I was seeing!!! Talk about a brain spin. Mine did a complete 360 degree loop!

OH. MY. God!!! There nestled in the box was this…..

first grandchild, we're expecting a baby, i'm going to be a granny

the best news ever!!!!

Staring at the words on the baby grow as if I had never seen English words before, it took me all of about 30 seconds to comprehend what I was seeing….my head whipped up at an alarming rate and the incredulity on my face was something to behold. You’re pregnant??? A tearful nod from the Mother-to-be and I was out of my chair in a flash, absolutely hysterical with unadulterated joy. I never knew sounds like that could come out of my body!!

At just on 3pm on the 12th May 2018 I got the best news ever!!! I was gong to be a Granny!! Oh how much I had hoped that my daughter would one day have a baby, for her to experience the exquisite joy of being a Mother, of holding that tiny little mite in her arms and know that she was the lifelong guardian of that precious bundle. For years I had hoped that she would have this experience and now finally it was true; she was to be a Mother and I was to be a Granny.

first grandchild, we're expecting a baby, i'm going to be a granny

I’m going to be a Granny

The tears flowed and the questions flew…when was it due? How are you feeling? What now? OMG is this really true and many many more. Once we had all settled down and the enormity of the news settled like a mantle over my shoulders, I realised that my life had changed exponentially and would never be the same again.

first grandchild, we're expecting a baby, i'm going to be a granny

this is what was nestled inside the Daddy’s box 🙂

They had their first scan done just the day before 🙂

first grandchild, we're expecting a baby, i'm going to be a granny

Due in January and just the size of a poppy seed 🙂

Isn’t that just the most miraculous image in the world!!! And so the adventure begins!



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Today, 27 March 2017, marks the end of a wonderful episode of and in my life. 6.5 years ago, in 2011, I moved in with my daughter for 6 months (Yes, I know right LOL).

Back at the time she had just been through a very traumatic divorce, had moved into a shared house with a lass whose fiance had been killed just recently, so there was a lot of high emotion and stress for both of them. Things didn’t go well after a few months and in time the other lass moved out and my daughter decided that she was settled in the house and didn’t want to move. She was also wary of sharing with another stranger and all the issues that brings with it. So after much discussion and since I had just recently quit my long-term live-in caring position, it was decided I would move in for 6 months to help her over the hump, so to speak.

Things went well. We had lots of tears to start with as she struggled to find her equilibrium and work her way through the trauma of the divorce, but we also had loads of laughter. I work away a lot with my job, so she had the house to herself for weeks at a time and when I came back, we had cupcakes and tea, long walks and talks, plenty of tears, hugs, kisses and smiles as we created new memories for her to take into the new future she was creating.

I loved it. Frankly speaking it was wonderful to ‘come home’ to my precious child and be able to hug the hurts better, chat about everything under the sun over tea, and just be with her.love you mum 05.06.2013

It helped me tremendously being able to see first-hand her progress and development into what was a new skin and a new person. The divorce had changed her. Now she was developing the next phase of her life. We created some memorable and wonderful memories.

After a few years of London living, she decided she wanted to move to the coast, get out of London. We had discovered that it was the pollution in London that was making her so ill. We lived right on a dual-carriageway in Richmond and the exhaust fumes were affecting what was already a fragile health issue; her heart. One night, the day before Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, I was home when her heart stopped. Thankfully I was there. And she recovered after a time. After a few months of searching, she finally found just the right place in Broadstairs 🙂


Broadstairs – a seaside town in Kent

and even though the original arrangement was that I would stay on in London when she made the move to the coast, with one thing and another, and due to financial restraints at the time, it was decided that I would make the move with her…it made sense really; since I wasn’t home much she would have the house to herself for 2-3 weeks of each month, I would have a place for my possessions and get to see her more often than if we were 80 miles apart!! We also got to share some fantastic holidays and events!

Taking over the town and standing as a political candidate, she soon found her feet and settled into her new life

The next two and half years flashed by in the blink of an eye and once again we created some fantastic memories.

Creating loving and lasting memories in Broadstairs

Creating loving and lasting memories in Broadstairs

Soon we had a new addition to our happy home; Elsie moved in and not only took over the house, but our hearts as well ❤elsie

2016-03-25 20.26.37 1213979011156144061_231798962

Just look at this little body… @Elsietherescuecat could she have chosen a more purrrrrfect place to sleep? This little girl is so content it makes my heart ache with love. She couldn’t have been chosen by a more loving person…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Cémanthe has done an amazing job of creating a caring, loving, safe and clearly contented environment for a little body that suffered so much in her earlier life; Elsie the happy cat 😉 


Last year we fetched Fiona – next was her driving licence and now she’s never home LOL

She met a wonderful young man last year, he proposed in December, they’re getting married in May 2018 and it was decided that they would start sharing a home from May 2017.

So today, 27 March 2017, is officially the last day Broadstairs will be my home. Mum’s moving out and the fiance is moving in ❤💑💍👰💂 In future I’ll just touch base for a day/night or so from time to time to change bags, swap clothes, get plenty of hugs and kisses before heading out again. Essentially I’ll be a gypsy living out my suitcase and travelling between jobs 😀😀😀👏👏 yayy. I’ll miss ‘home’ for sure but I’m excited for adventures new. Goodbye Broadstairs; it’s been fun.

And now it’s time for me to start creating some more fantastic memories.


my daughter sent this to me…it’s now my desktop pic!! love it, makes me smile eveytime I log on

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It’s a year ago today since my Father passed away. He died on his own, in his flat. I’m still not sure what happened; was it a heart-attack, a blackout that caused him to fall and bang his head, another stroke? I haven’t been told.

And therein lies the rub of it. I haven’t been told. I have asked….but does anyone know? I’m not sure. We are the products of my father’s history….a secretive family. I hate secrets.

It’s kinda weird really knowing he is dead. It’s kinda weird knowing that I haven’t been affected by his death at all. I know my siblings have. And I feel more for them, for their loss. What is it that I feel for them? Sadness that they’ve lost someone who to them was a dearly beloved father? Pain at their loss? Empathy at the loss of a parent? I’m not really sure. I haven’t yet stopped to examine my feelings. What I do know is, the older I get the more I wish – I wish he had been a loving father, a role model, someone for me to look  up to, someone I had good memories of….someone who was there for me!!

He was 85 years old when he died. And he was old. Apparently slipping into Alzheimers, according to my sister he often got lost, confused and belligerent. 15 years past the expected 3 score and 10! More than my Mother was blessed with. She’s been gone 32 years now. My daughter asked me this morning how I was feeling. Honestly, I feel annoyed. Annoyed that he died so close to my Mother’s birth date of 6th December. It’s a bit of an annoyance to me that he died so close to her special date. Forces me to remember his date. You know as in ‘my father died the day after my Mother’s birth date’.

Actually……I lost my father when I was 5 years old and my sister 3 years old; his two children from his first marriage. The two children left behind as he set off on adventures new. Oh yes we were included….maybe twice a year…during school holidays or at Christmas. Sometimes he even appeared for our birthdays…often he promised to and didn’t.  I remember one year in particular…..I had received a much wished for train-set for my 6th birthday and he had promised to come…..he didn’t. I ran and hid in the water-tower. The place where his brother-in-law found me. The one who was a paedophile. The one my father should have protected me from. He didn’t. He didn’t believe me then and he didn’t believe me when I was in my 20’s and told him again what had happened.  He told me not to spread lies and talk about people like that. As if a 6 year-old knows the details of sexual assault without having been subjected to it. As if a 20-year old would or could forget

I am the eldest of my father’s children. There are 5 of us…..4 girls and one boy, one of whom was adopted by my father and his 3rd wife. There used to be 6 of us. My brother Arnold, who was also adopted by my Father when he married his 2nd wife, died in his 20’s from a ruptured ulcer. He too died alone. He too was found wanting. I was surprised on the day my Father told me that my brother had died…..he was crying? Even then I wasn’t sure why? My brother was not his favourite child.

Yes, my father remarried after he divorced my Mother. It wasn’t that long after. He adopted his new wife’s child; a boy – Arnold. Some years later he had another child with his 2nd wife; also a boy. He divorced his 2nd wife too many years later, and remarried again. He and his 3rd wife adopted a child; a girl. They then had another child; also a girl.

These are my siblings. I have 1 real sister. 1 half brother. 1 dead brother. 1 adopted sister. 1 half sister – all from my father’s side. I have 2 other siblings; both half-sisters, girls from my Mother’s 2nd and 3rd marriages. I was the eldest. I often wish we were closer, my siblings and I. All of them I mean. We’re relatively close, each in different ways, in our different relationships, but not in the ways that really count, like growing up together, like shared fun family times, like having the same set of parents, like all being ‘real’ brothers and sisters. Although the family ties are there, it’s been a tricky road to walk. A lot of angst. Many secrets. Don’t tell……

Over the years I had a troubled relationship with my Father. The only time I recall being close to him was when I was very young. He used to tell me I was his favourite?  I’m not sure why since he always expressed a level of disappointment in my ‘non-achievements’ as he saw them. I didn’t have an interest in going to University. Strike 1. I wasn’t interested in the son of a family friend that he was keen for me to get engaged to. Strike 2. I married at 17 years of age to someone he didn’t approve of. Strike 3. In fact he refused to walk me down the aisle. That was left to my Mother’s 3rd husband. The person who paid for the wedding. The person who had assaulted and beaten my mother for the 6 years prior. The person who had openly and brazenly sexually abused me as a teenager. He had a particular affection for my budding breasts. I was unable to tell my father. He had already told me not to spread lies about people. After 3 years I divorced my 1st husband. I then had another disastrous relationship with a very abusive man. Thankfully I ended that.  I eventually married a second time. I didn’t ask my father to walk me down the aisle.

I had a daughter outside of that marriage. A daughter that my Father felt I was not caring for properly, not feeding properly, not dressing properly. If there was something he could criticise, he did. His opinion of me as a mother was low. Strike 4. In actual fact, my daughter was the cleanest, most well-looked after baby you could wish to find. I used to change her clothes at least 3 times a day. She was skinny from birth. My milk didn’t nourish her and she had to go onto bottles. She was loved and cherished. But that wasn’t good enough for my father. He and his 3rd wife had wanted to adopt her you see. So I was found wanting.

During the 90’s after his 3rd wife went off the rails and started drinking heavily she started to verbally abuse my sister and I (you know, the one’s from his 1st marriage). We would get long abusive phone calls at all hours of the day or night. As a result, after a time, a restraining order was laid against her. My father refused to have anything to do with us after that. We, he and I didn’t talk for 4 years. That also meant I didn’t get to see or talk to his youngest children, my sisters. That was hard. It’s affected our relationship to this day. Do I wish we had been closer? Definitely. Thankfully we are now adults and can choose.

To say that I had a rocky and turbulent relationship with my father would be an understatement. I resented his authoritarian parental methods. I felt he hadn’t the right to chastise or criticise me when he hadn’t stayed around to raise me. When I was much older I understood the reason why he was authoritarian (his father was a tyrant) but nonetheless I resented him. I resented the broken promises. I resented that he discarded one for another. I resented the huge house that he lived in with his ‘new’ family while my Mother struggled to raise us in a tiny flat. I resented the car he had. At home we had to walk carrying loads of shopping or take a bus if we went anywhere. My Mother couldn’t afford a car. I resented, although I always looked forward to them with great excitement, the flights to Cape Town for the holidays. Holidays that were filled with anger and shouting. He and his 2nd wife didn’t get along too well. I resented that he drove a divide between us and them. I resented the secrets. The ‘don’t tell anyone’. I hate secrets.

I remember sitting in the Mall on the East Rand many years ago when I was already in my 40’s, meeting up with my father for coffee and having what I thought would be a grown-up discussion….it ended up with me screaming at him for not listening, not hearing me. Lashing out at his disparaging comments. At his unwillingness to even give me the benefit of the doubt. I tried to tell him so much. He wouldn’t hear me. When I was made Regional Personnel and Financial Manager for a Group of Companies in 1984….his reply: are you sure you can cope? Well I did and I thrived. I went on to become Regional Manager for the Eastern Cape. Still he was unimpressed.  His reply “Oh yes?” in that tone of voice I had learned so well over the years; it told me all I needed to know. He never said he was proud of me – ever! I hated him for a very long time.

When I came to the UK in 2001 I felt I was leaving that all behind me. I had a lot of distance between me and….then. He came to the UK in 2007…not to see me specifically but because the Tour de France was due to start from London. He was a cycling fanatic. Seeing me was incidental. On the day of the TdF start we spent some time together. I mentioned that I was thinking of walking The Camino. His reply: “you can’t, you have to be religious to do that”. Why? Millions of people walk The Camino. Many of them are not religious. He cycled The Camino. I forget how many times. He wasn’t religious. He believed he was a Christian.  So why when I said I wanted to walk was I found wanting. Still. After 50 odd years? Ironically he cycled The Camino earlier last year with my sister. She’s not religious.

I saw him last about 5 years ago on a trip to South Africa. That was the last photo I have of him and me together. We’re both smiling. Photos are so deceptive. He phoned me for my 60th birthday in 2015. I was shocked beyond belief that he had phoned. It was the last time I spoke to him.

He had a group of friends through the Al Anon group that he attended for many years in Cape Town. When I saw their comments about him on his Facebook profile after he died, it’s like they’re talking about a completely different person. Someone I don’t know. He won an award the day before he died. I didn’t even know.

I feel sadness for my siblings. At the loss of their father. But do I feel a sense of loss for myself? No. I don’t. I lost my father 56 years ago; when I was 6 years-old.





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South Africa from inside a metal box

So the tickets are booked and paid for and on 14 June 2011 we are going ‘home’.  Such a weird word to use in this context coz of course South Africa is no longer my home.  I left South Africa in October 2001 and have lived in the UK since July 2002 and I now call London ‘home’.  The last time we visited South Africa was in 2008 for my sister’s 50th and to catch up with family and friends.  How much has changed since then.  The purpose of this trip is to visit my daughter’s grandparents, both of whom are in their 90’s now and both of whom have had major health issues in the last year or so.  Last year her grandmother fell and broke her hip, she recovered from that but has now fractured a vertebrae.  Her Grandfather is still recovering from prostrate cancer and last month fell and broke his hip.   They are so fragile now.  So this trip is to spend some time with them.  I recall the last time we saw them back in 2008 how they and we cried when we left, thinking it would be the last time we saw them, and this time it may well be. So it is with gladness and sadness that we make this trip back coz the reality is that this may indeed be the last time we see them….personally I hope it’s not.

Alan, Dixie and Cémanthe - Natal 2008

Of course the trip is twofold coz we have not seen the rest of the family for an equal amount of time and the children are growing up fast (my sister’s grandchildren) I have not seen my younger sisters since 2008 either and my Dad….not even sure where or when last we caught up! It may well have been here in London, but so much has happened in the last few years that it feels like a blur. I have seen my brother and sister-in-law; at the beginning of this year for about 5 minutes when they were in-transit to Hungary last January.
Now you may or may not know that South Africa is rather a large country and the UK could probably fit into it 6 times over if not more. So going home is always a challenge! Why? Well mostly because the family are dispersed over such a vast area and we spend a lot of our time travelling from one place to the other. For e.g. the grandparents and one Aunt live in Natal; my Dad, 3 younger sisters and 2 brothers-in-law live in the Cape – none of which is anywhere near one to the other; and my other sister and family all live in the Transvaal, as well as my daughter’s father, her brother and sister and their families. Besides which there are friends to visit and catch up with as well. So it’s a matter of a few days here and a few days there and a couple of days somewhere else, and before we even have time to breathe…..it’s back on the plane to the UK. So the result is that you only get to spend about an hour or two with the people you care about.
On the emotional side of things, I always find it a real challenge to go ‘home’ – one because it is no longer my home and I have no emotional attachment to the country at all, which I know folks always find strange, and two because the person I was back then is so completely different to the person I am now that I feel like a fish out of water, it’s like landing in a foreign country. When I am back in South Africa, it feels like a blanket has been thrown over me; I feel stifled.
London is now so home to me and I find it really difficult to go ‘back’. It feels ‘back’ in every sense of the word and I spend the next few months after I return to London trying to shake off the emotional turmoil of the trip. It’s always wonderful to see the family and to catch up with friends, but saying goodbye again is dreadful. That’s besides the feelings of claustrophobia I feel when I step off the plane.
I hate the vastness of the country, I hate that I cannot just walk out the front door and go to the store, I hate that I cannot take a train into the city centre and go walkabout, I hate that when I am driving in a car I have the fear of carjackings and have to make sure that the car doors and windows are securely locked. There are many other things that I loathe about going ‘home’ besides the above, but the biggest is the feeling that I suddenly lose my identity.
I lose my sense of self, my sense of freedom.
I recall the last time we went home, my daughter’s father was driving us from the airport to his house where we would be staying for a few days and the area we were driving through was wide open and spacious and yet the overwhelming feeling I had was one of claustrophobia. (see pic above) That came as such a shock to me! I was sat in a metal box, doors securely locked, with wide open country in front of me and I felt so closed in and trapped. A feeling that usually catches me as I step off the plane.  I hate driving around in a metal box, doors and windows securely locked, fearful of carjackings, locking doors and windows at night; burglar bars and barbed-wire fences the norm.  I hate that I can’t just walk to the bus-stop and get on a bus to the station, wait for the next train and whizz off into London. Total freedom! I can walk where I like, sit on the banks of the river, meander here and there without restriction and really enjoy my surroundings without fear!
I dread the flight; it’s 1.5 days of airports and planes, I dread the country (?), I dread saying goodbye, I dread going back!
And all of that aside, it will be wonderful to see the family; the hugs, the laughter, the catching up on news we don’t always get, re-establishing realtionships, playing with the grandchildren, creating new memories, loads of photos of shared moments in time and filling up the coffers of family love till the next time we……………go home!

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