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Previously, I had complained about my Mother asking “bad questions,” or questions so irrelevant that I have to wonder if she pays any attention to anything I say to her. Ever.

Yesterday I realized she does this other thing which is equally annoying. When giving advice, she often says the wrong thing. How is it wrong? It just is. You know it when you’re talking to someone and they’re all like, “You should do XYZ!” and you think to yourself, “Why the f* would I do that?” But you smile politely and say something noncommittal, like “Yeah, maybe.”

Except I am not as civilized when it comes from my mother. I’ve been dealing with her nonsense for (almost) 37 years now, and my patience is gone.

At the beginning of this week, I found out that I have to attend a TV commercial shoot for one of my clients over the weekend. It essentially ruins my weekend, when I had various plans and was also looking forward to watching football on Sunday.  I am beyond pissed off about it. I’ll take a comp day (I’m salaried, so working on a Sunday is not the windfall of cash that one might expect), but the principle of it still bugs me. I despise our current corporate culture where the notion of “work/life balance” is scoffed at and seen as weakness. Since when did having a job mean that your personal life is unimportant and comes second to the demands of what you do?  But, saying something like, “Sorry, I can’t work this weekend, I have plans.” is just not an option unless I want to get fired, so I just do it.

In an email exchange with my Mom this week about the family trip to Orlando (it got postponed from Christmas (thank God) to next March), I mentioned that I won’t be around to talk this weekend because I’ll be working, and that I’m not happy about it.  Her response?  “Don’t be aggravated!”

Perhaps the single most aggravating thing in the world is being told not to be aggravated when something is 100% justifiably aggravating.   So, if she was trying to diffuse my annoyance, all she really did was intensify it.

I deleted her email immediately.

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We’ve all probably been in the situation where we’ve been trapped in a conversation with a BAD conversationalist. You know, the people who blather on about themselves, and seem completely uninterested in any contributions you might have?  It is exhausting to try to talk to one of these types of people, not to mention awkward.

Today I discovered that there is a particular type of the Bad Conversationalist. It is the Bad Question Asker.  As a prime example of this, I would like to introduce you to my Mother (that statement might be more effective if she actually knew this blog existed and read it, but the nature of this post will tell you why that is not a possibility).  She has knack for asking such bad questions, it is clear to me that she either doesn’t care or isn’t remotely paying attention to the details of my life. Her questions are so off the mark I wonder if she even remembers who she’s talking to half way through the conversation.  She also has a habit of holding on to a seriously useless pieces of information, and asking about those in lieu of, say, asking me about my many doctors appointments or what is going on in my personal life.  Or, worse than useless, is just the outdated nature of the questions. Like, she was paying attention five years ago, but that’s when her brain became full of data about me and she has since given up trying to hold on to information.*

This type of bad question asking is only slightly more disheartening than the people who ask you a question, and as you answer, you realize they aren’t even remotely paying attention to what you’re saying. The question was only asked to set up the “conversation” the asker wants to have. I used quotes there because, in those circumstances, it ends up being less of a conversation and more just someone talking at you and telling you about themselves.

Today my mom asked me how my knee was doing. I went to physical therapy for a knee injury last fall (I was actually done with therapy by November) and it hasn’t bothered me since. I have, however, been suffering with sciatica since May.  Glad she’s keeping up.  In the same vein, my boyfriend periodically suffers with a bad back. He’s usually ok with it, but last winter, while visiting my family over the holidays, it was bothering him one day and he had to take a muscle relaxer and a nap to set himself straight again.  It really wasn’t a big deal. Yet today she asked, “How’s [insert boyfriend’s name here]’s back?”  It was a very random and out of the blue question.  Maybe she didn’t know what else to ask about him, but why pick that?  Just a general, “How’s he doing?” would have sufficed.

The effect of a conversation with a Bad Question Asker is that you walk away from the conversation feeling kind of crappy.  As though, it’s almost better if they don’t bother asking any questions at all instead of asking questions that are so woefully unrelated to anything actually happening in your life.  Of course, you can forgive a relative stranger of this; but from friends and/or family, it has a crummy lasting effect.

* Before you feel too bad for me, or dismiss me as some sort of ungrateful jerk who doesn’t appreciate their mother, I would like to note that my dad is the opposite of this. He is the best Question Asker ever.  I think it’s because most of his career was in sales, which is all about talking to people and relationships, but he pays attention to every last detail when you talk, and will come back weeks later and follow up with questions on something you yourself will have forgotten about.  Why I love My Dad Part III?

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My parents each turned 60 last year.  This May, they’ll be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.  I love them both dearly, but I fear they have lost their minds.

Last year was not a good year for celebrating milestone birthdays.  My grandfather died in the middle of January, and then I had a stroke at the end of March and my entire family had to fly to California. So, since my Mom’s birthday is in February and my Dad’s is in April, any notions of grand celebrations were scrapped and they celebrated by taking off to New Hampshire and shutting out the world.  Which seemed fine to me.

Some family history that is important to note: my parents are notoriously awful with finances. We were never the family that had cool vacations or the newest clothes (I had hand-me-down clothes from the 70s…from my male cousins).  We didn’t go out to eat often if hardly ever (does McDonald’s count?).  Yet, for some reason, my parents decided to send us to a private Catholic school for an ridiculous amount of money, where we got a very sub-par education.  So any disposable income was squandered at St. Francis of Assissi. See what I mean about bad with finances?

I think my parents (or my Mom – my Dad generally follows suit and agrees with her regardless of subject matter, as a method of keeping his own sanity) are in the midst of some sort of mid-life crisis or nervous breakdown where they’ve decided that they are sick to death of being the people who don’t get to do the fun stuff and are going to make up for lost time by cramming a stupid amount of family fun into one year.

At the risk of being annoyingly repetitive, I would like to draw a fine point on the fact that my parents are bad with money. This is important because I’m still unsure how they have decided to bankroll this Family Year of Fun.  This is further upsetting to me because, much to my sister’s and my mutual horror, my mother likes to go around telling people, “My retirement plan is to be a burden to my children!”  It is the unfunniest joke in the history of jokes. I think my sister automatically gets the short straw on that one because 1) she lives closer and 2) is the one with my parents’ grandchildren.

To be fair, I know that one way they have some money to pay for these activities is from the sale of my deceased grandfather’s house.  However, my grandfather built that house himself back in 1955. It was in decent shape, but my sister was right when she said he was a “Level 2 hoarder”, so it probably needs a fair amount of work. It’s in a good location close to the city, but with the real estate market what it is, I have a hard time believing that the proceeds from the sale of that house – split five ways amongst his children – amount to a substantial amount of money.

I try to ignore the non-logical nature of it, but it’s getting more difficult with each passing conversation with my parents because they are so excited about everything coming up.   Here’s the timeline of activity:

* May:  An anniversary party for my parents on their actual anniversary, which happens to be Memorial Day weekend.  We will have 80 people in a function hall. Now, my sister and I, hardly financial whizzes ourselves, will be chipping in for this.  We are scared.  My mom asked if we should get a DJ and I snapped, “No, we can just load Sinatra on an iPod and hook it up to some speakers.”

* June: My parents are taking a 7-day cruise from Boston to Bermuda. This is actually the one activity I approve of because 1) it doesn’t involve me and 2) they went to Bermuda on their honeymoon, so it seems very fitting.

* December/Christmas:  My parents are taking my sister, brother-in-law, their three kids, me and my boyfriend to Walt Disney World for Christmas and New Years.  This is the one I can’t quite get over.   It’s a full week!  In Orlando!! Besides the expense of it, I think the rest of my family has failed to take into consideration that the last vacation two adults sans children want to take is to a place that is crawling with other people’s children (actually, people with their own children probably don’t want to do this either, but that’s one of the benefits of not having children; sure, you have no one to love you in your old age, but you get to take vacations that are blissfully free of screaming children who have just pooped themselves).

The kicker of my parents mad spending spree of 2012 was the conversation I just had with them, when they told me they just found out from their mechanic that my mom’s car won’t make it much past the Spring. My mother hates to drive. Hates it. So she only drives herself to and from work every day, which is approximately 1 mile. If she were less lazy, she could just take a bus. The moral of the story is, spending any amount of money for my mother to have a new car is quite possibly one of the stupidest ways to spend cash that I’ve ever heard of. Yet, they are talking about leasing a new Corolla, because at the end of the lease, they can “just buy it out.” Well, kids, I have done this, and I’m here to tell you, it’s a superbly dumb idea. My 1998 Corolla was brand new when I leased it for three years. At the end of the lease, needing a car but unable to afford a new one and wanting to break the lease cycle, I decided to buy out my lease because at least I knew where that used car had been, and it had really low mileage.  I ended up making payments on that car for seven years.  I still drive it because I can’t bear the thought of having a car payment again.  I can’t even imagine how much over sticker price I ended up paying because of that boneheaded move. When my parents told me they’re going car shopping over the weekend and I said, “Don’t make any rash decisions!”, they seemed insulted by my lack of faith. But, given their recent track record, I think someone needs to keep them in line.

I really, truly do not want this to be my job. I am not prepared to parent my parents.  But, since it seems most likely that my sister will be the one saddled with them on a day-to-day basis, it’s the least I can do to contribute.

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I am from New England. Like almost everyone else in that six-state section of the country, I am a New England Patriots fan.  This is because I have a huge sense of hometown pride, and also because Tom Brady is a football god.  Since they became a winning team back in the early 2000’s, they have been so much fun to watch and root for.  Prior to the winning, it was often painful, but we rooted anyway, and then complained. That’s what Boston fans do.

My Dad, on the other hand, is a New York Giants fan.  When he was a little boy, he would go to a friend’s house and watch football games, and his friend’s dad was a Giants fan. This was because it was so long ago, the Patriots didn’t exist yet.  The Giants were the closest thing that they had to a home team to root for.

Well, my Dad is nothing if not loyal, and when the Patriots came into existence, he did not even consider changing his allegiance.  Because the two teams are in different conferences, he is not often seen rooting against the Pats, but the Giants are “his” team.  All of his sports gear is NY Giants. A jacket, a hat (both of which he wears when he picks me up at Logan, amidst a sea of Red Sox and Patriots gear; he always stands defiantly proud), and a warm, fuzzy blanket that we all fight over. He is a subscriber to a publication called the “Giants Newsweekly”. He watches the games (when he can) as though he is the coach. If they win but don’t play well, he’s in a bad mood for days.  Because Giants games are often on at the same time as Pats games, the local stations will run the Pats games instead.  It is rare that he gets to watch a live Giants game in the regular season.  My mother is not a football fan, and she’s kind of cheap, so his decades-long plea for Direct TVs NFL Sunday Ticket has fallen on deaf ears (almost literally, her hearing is terrible).

I have always appreciated my Dad’s loyal fandom, and have done what I could to support it.  I remember when they won that Super Bowl back in the 90s – my Dad was watching by himself at home so I kept him company. He was so happy when they won, he picked me up and hugged me (he’s a big guy, so it was like he was tossing around a rag doll – but it was still kind of fun).  Once, when I was in high school, there was a game on the local TV station. He was thrilled but not able to watch it live, so he made a big deal of taping it on the VCR to watch later. Well, at one point later in that day, I walked through the living room and saw the word “STOP” on the VCR screen. I thought, “Oh no, Dad’s game!” And hit “Record,” proud of myself for saving the day. Or so I thought. Apparently the game had long since ended and my Dad had rewound the tape and had it at the very beginning of the game, so that all he had to do was hit “Play.”  I recorded over the whole thing.  He was beside himself and my Mom had me hide in my room for the rest of the day to stay out of his way. The man is a teddy bear, but that is pretty much the one unpardonable sin as far as he’s concerned.

A few years before I moved to LA, I found out that the Giants and Pats were playing each other in the regular season – a rarity.  Even better, they were playing in Foxboro. My Dad had never been to a Giants game, so I thought this would be the best possible birthday/Father’s Day present ever.  It was going to be from me, my sister and brother-in-law. So I started trolling for tickets.  This was in the Spring, for a game in the Fall, and everywhere I went, tickets were already sold out.  I was getting discouraged and mentioned my frustrations to my sister. Now, I adore my sister for being one of the sweetest, loveliest people on all of planet Earth; however, sometimes she is consumed by the details in front of her face and doesn’t always step back to see the big picture.  She’s a teacher, and would often mention Josh, one of the other teachers she worked with. When I told her my ticket troubles, she said, “I wonder if Josh could help.”  I said, “Why would Josh be able to help?” And she said, “Because he’s Josh Kraft.”  And I said, “AS IN BOB KRAFT’S SON?!?! YES, ASK HIM TO HELP!!!!”  So she did, and he got us tickets.  My Dad was so thrilled, and I had grand visions of me and my Dad, hanging out at Foxboro, cheering for opposing teams.  Then he took my brother-in-law to the game.  I tried not to be bitter. In the end, they ended up tailgating with a bunch of my Dad’s work buddies and had a great time, so I was happy that he was happy.  But I did really want to go to that game.

Back in 2008, during THAT Giants/Pats Super Bowl, my parents were invited to a party at the house of a woman my mother has worked with for years, Donna. Donna’s Dad was also a die hard Giants fan, but has long since passed.  Because my Dad was the only Giants fan there, they put a chair in the corner for him next to a picture of Donna’s dead dad, and gave him a box of popcorn to eat.  That was the extent of the Giants cheering section in that house.  I can only imagine his elation when they won and how much everyone else in the room wanted him to shut up.

My boyfriend, from New York, is also a Giants fan. I suspect this is why my Dad liked him immediately. They have taken to texting each other during the games, which is pretty cute. Sometimes I get in on it by accident, and my Dad will send me messages that assume I have a far greater understanding of the game than I actually do (to be fair, I would always watch games with him from the time I was little, so he probably assumes knowledge sunk in, but sometimes I would just nap next to him. He’s really cozy).  I try to keep my replies short so as not to disappoint him.

We’ve been joking with my Dad that if the Giants made the Super Bowl, we’d have to fly him to LA to watch with my boyfriend and another good friend of his who is also a fan.    During the NFC Championship game last Sunday, when it  was looking like the Giants would win, I sent him this message:  “Pats are in!! Re-match?! We would have to fly you out, for your own safety.”  His reply? “No way. I handled it once, I would love to do it again.”  This cracked me up, so I wrote back, “Haha – my dad, the badass,” to which he replied, “U betcha!!!!” (My Dad has embraced texting abbreviations; at least he’s stopped using all caps, which made me always feel like I was in trouble and he was yelling at me).  When I called my parents’ house the other night, he told me, “They’re already starting.” Meaning, Pats fans have already started running off their mouths in a way that is pissing him off. As he gets older, he gets more cantankerous, so I hope he doesn’t get himself in trouble anywhere.

So, come Super Bowl Sunday, assuming my Dad manages not to get beat up by crazy Pats fans prior to the game, we will be cheering on opposite sides. Although, I have to say, how can you grow up with a man like that and not cheer for his team, even just a little bit?  I will be thrilled if the Pats win – but I won’t be too sad if the Giants win.  And that’s for my Dad.

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At the beginning of this year, my grandfather passed away.  He was one week shy of his 97th birthday, so it seems absurd to say it was “sudden.”  However, he looked and acted FAR younger than his years, so we often forgot how old he really was and took for granted that he would be around forever.  A little over a year before his death, he had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and had all sorts of issues after that. In the end, while in the hospital, he had a massive stroke from which he never awoke, and that was it.

There is so much to say about that man.  He was amazing and inspirational – and, I maintain that you could not have had a more perfect grandfather if you had gone to the Grandparents Store and invented him yourself with equal parts, love, compassion, humor, sage advice, and awesome hugs.  He was just the best.  Needless to say, it was a huge blow to the entire family to lose him. He was my Mom’s father, and she had an especially hard time dealing.  I made it my job, from the moment I landed at Logan, to try to distract her and help take care of her and do any of the logistical things I could to help take some of the planning off her plate.  Really, I just didn’t know what else to do. Words are so meaningless at that point, and I had my own grief to deal with, so maybe I needed the distraction as well.  He passed away in January, so it was freezing in Boston and we were in the midst of massive snow storms every few days. We actually waited longer than the traditional 3 days to have the wake and funeral so that we could get on the other side of a big blizzard, so that my grandfather’s relatives who live south of the city could make it up.  When I first arrived, my mother was in a bit of a fog trying to sort out details, and I didn’t have any appropriate winter funeral wear, so we had to go to the mall.  I think this probably helped keep her busy, but at one point, I could tell she was about to get weepy on me.  She is the youngest of five, and was especially close with her parents (my grandmother passed away when I was in college) and older sister (who died a few years ago).  So when I said (duh) “What’s wrong?” I was almost sort of prepared for this response: “It sucks being the youngest because everyone dies before you and then you’re all alone!”  Imagine this, coming from a woman who is almost 60, said with the fervor of a child pissed that they can’t have more cookies.  I disparage, but I felt her pain.  Being the smart ass that I am, the only thing I could think to say was, “Well, maybe you’ll get lucky and die before Uncle Johnny.”  She shot me a dirty look and said, “I knew you would say something like that.” But, I considered it a successful conversation because she didn’t end up crying in the middle of the mall.  Yay!

The night of the wake was a busy one. We got there at 4 PM and it didn’t end until after 8. I think. It was a blur.  The room was filled with pretty much anyone I’ve ever known in my life.  It is such a sad reason to see them all, but so comforting to have them all there.  Still, by the end, we were exhausted, hungry, and in need of a stiff drink.  I was kicking around with my Mom and Dad, so we went to a nearby restaurant for some food.  We each ordered a cocktail – not wine or beer, but the hard stuff.  Then we had another. Then our food came and my Mom’s drink was empty and she said, “I think I need a third.” So, in an effort to be helpful, I said, “Let’s all get thirds!”  The upshot of this was that by the time we got home, I was kind of drunk.

The next morning was the funeral. My Mom was on serious edge and I could tell that any little thing would have caused her to freak out. So I was treading carefully. Despite my evil hangover, I pulled it together to get ready as quickly as possible, because I could only imagine that if was even 30 seconds late, she would have gone postal. My Dad had the same strategy, although we never communicated about it. Fleeting eye contact as we silently passed each other in the kitchen told me we were on the same page.  I panicked at one point as I got dressed and put on my new funeral dress and tights. The tights were defective and had a massive hole on the back of one of my legs, under my ass.  It was covered by my dress, but definitely was in danger of spreading. I went downstairs and showed my mom, and she whipped out some hairspray to stop it from running more, and then a hair dryer to dry the hairspray on my ass.  The entire scene was pretty comical, so I said, “Hey, when you feel really sad at any point today, you should just try to remember this morning when you had to blow dry my ass!”  It got a chuckle, but she was still pretty tense.

We left for the funeral home early, just about the time that parents are dropping their children off at school. We’d just had another snow storm the day before, and with the massive amount of snow that winter, all of the side roads were totally narrowed by snow banks. On many streets, only one car could travel at a time, and you’d have to pull over to let opposing traffic pass.  Since we were going from one suburban town to another, taking surface roads, this was not an ideal situation. Every time we turned a corner, we’d be at a dead stop, battling to move with school buses and minivans. From the back seat, I could see my mother’s shoulders up around her ears from the tension of it all.  My Dad, as he usually does, had on the local AM news radio station, which no one was really listening to except me because I needed a distraction from the inevitable volcanic eruption that was about to come out of the front seat every time my dad would say, “Wait, I’ll go this way!” in an effort to get around traffic, only to turn a corner and get even more stuck than we were before.  My Mom reminded me of a cartoon tea kettle about to blow.  On the radio station was one of those ridiculous, hardly-newsworthy local interest stories. The newscaster’s lead in was something like, “Bostonians deal with the fall out of even more snow!”, which was followed by a quote from the interview they did for the subsequent story. The interview was with some kid in Southie who was shoveling for cash (presumably the only fool they could find outside to interview). He was probably no more than 13, but for some reason his voice was that of an old woman, and he had the worst Boston accent I’ve ever heard. So the lead in came, “Bostonians deal with the fall out of even more snow!”, followed by this gem: “My aaahms kinda hurt.”  It was amazing and hilariously funny.  Clearly, the producers of the segment also thought the quote was funny, because they played it about 15 times.  I wanted more than anything to burst out laughing, but just looking at the back of my parents’ heads told me that would be a bad idea.  So, I kept it in.  The more tense it got in that car, the more they played that quote, and the more I wanted to laugh.

I think the whole experience left me with some sort of PTSD, rolled into the fact that I never did get a chance to truly, properly grieve because I was so worried about my mother. When I think about my grandfather, I still feel horrifically sad that he’s not here anymore. And still, to this day, I will think of that morning and hear that weird kid’s voice in my head and want to burst out laughing no matter where I am.  My grandfather would totally appreciate that.

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Anyone who knows me knows that I think my Dad is one of the best people on the planet. This is a story that sums up why he makes me smile like no one else.

A few weeks ago I was headed to Boston to visit my family. Since my flight times were as inconvenient as flight times can possibly get (I was leaving at midnight on a Friday and arriving back in town at 11:30 on a Sunday night) I decided to find my own way to and from the airport. This involved booking a Super Shuttle, which is not an ideal way to travel, but it beats bugging your friends when you know they don’t want to drive you or pick you up.  The Super Shuttle is a shared-ride van, which means you generally book your pick up much earlier than you would normally leave because you never know how many people the shuttle will be picking up along the way.

About 20 minutes before my pick up time on the night I left, I got a call from Super Shuttle. They informed me that instead of a shuttle, they were sending me my own cab.  I can only assume they were overbooked or didn’t have enough pick-ups in my neighborhood to merit sending a van. They assured me I wouldn’t have to pay anything and that the cab would be there at the scheduled pick up time.  Sure enough, the cab showed up right on the button. My cab driver was an excessively friendly man who kept calling me by name and had an accent exactly like Borat.  He welcomed me heartily and then proceeded to drive 95 miles per hour to LAX.  At one point on the 405 we were going so fast that when I looked at the car in the lane next to us, it looked like it wasn’t even moving. I equated it to a ride on the Knight Bus from Harry Potter because it felt as though we were weaving through other vehicles at breakneck speed the entire way. The upshot was that I arrived at the airport a good two and half hours before my flight was leaving. 

What does one do when faced with this much free time at the airport? Head to the bar, of course!  I made my way to the sports bar in the Jet Blue terminal and ordered myself a whiskey – it just always seems like an appropriate late-night drink to help you sleep on a red eye.  The waitress offered to make it a double to which I replied, “Sure!”  So, I sat there, read my magazine and drank my double whiskey. When it was gone, I still had tons of time to kill and the waitress asked if I wanted another, to which I replied, “Why not?”  Suffice to say, by the time I paid my bill and made my way over to the gate, I was pretty loopy.

I should also mention that this was at the end of an exceptionally long work week that involved travel and several 5 AM wakes ups and a few very late nights. So I was exhausted to begin with.  My flight was a teeny bit delayed in boarding and as I sat at the gate, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stay awake until I got on the plane. Luckily I did, but not for long after.  I buckled myself in, grabbed my neck pillow, curled up against the window and passed out cold.  And I mean cold.  Normally I can’t sleep well on red eyes and wake up every half hour or so.  I must have slept through for almost the entire flight.

Which was why, when I finally woke up and looked at my watch, I was thrilled to see there was less than an hour left until we landed. Great! So I turned on my “Live Map” channel (I heart Jet Blue) to see how close in we were, and was completely stupefied to see we were only over Indiana. What the hell? My neighbors were still asleep so I couldn’t ask them what was going on.  So I sat there, confused, still kind of tired (yet miraculously not hung over), and grumpy that we were still in the air.  My flight was supposed to land at 8:30 AM local time and we didn’t touch down until 10 AM or so. By the time I got my bag and met my Dad outside, it was close to 10:30 (I later found out that we sat on the runway for 90 minutes before we ever took off. Since I was in a whiskey coma at the time, I was completely oblivious). 

My Dad and I had our usual 4 second reunion on the curb outside Terminal C while he hoisted my 42 lb. suitcase into the trunk (“Was this under the weight limit?” “Yes, Dad.”) before we got yelled at by the State Troopers for live parking.  We drove off towards home and my Dad asked, “Why were you so late?” I said, “Dad, I’m not gonna lie.  I had two double whiskeys before we took off, so I passed out and  have no idea what happened.” My Dad looked at me, nodded, and said, “What kind of whiskey?”

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