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For the sake of the children, Jennifer had better not die anytime soon. She’s their best, most caring advocate. I say this after engaging in a few mid-Christmas-break scuffles over simple things like brushing teeth, taking showers, cleaning up bedrooms, and basic back-to-reality chores.

If Jennifer dies, there will be certain things that die with her.

For one, we own a number of various digital devices—iPads, iPods, both the PlayStation 3 and 4, a Wii, and a few other gadgets—all of which will be going into the casket with her. The kids will no longer have to worry about experiencing the tortuous symptoms of withdrawal when I tell them to turn them off and get ready for bed.

The next thing that will go away is the use of devices for listening to music while taking a shower. We’re going to start giving the water heater a break. You’re already in there thirty-five minutes longer than necessary. The last thing you need is a soundtrack to your little naked dance party. When your mother passes on and is no longer in place to coax me in other directions, you’ll have ten minutes to get in and get out. After that, I’m turning off the hot water and the power to the room and you’re going to have to finish in the icy darkness.

Another thing, I’m putting a much tighter cap on Christmas gift expenses. You’ve got too much stuff already, half of which you don’t ever even play with. From here on out, you get three gifts at Christmas. And if you don’t provide me with a list, you get nothing. Your mom’s dead and I don’t have a mother’s intuition, so no list equals no gifts. Also, you will no longer be receiving gifts at other holidays. I always thought that was stupid. So, no more gifts on Valentine’s Day, or Easter, or your birthd… well, okay, I’ll get you a gift on your birthday, but remember, you need to make sure you give me a list. I don’t know that much about you. I just know that I had a hand in making and naming you. Other than that, as far as I’m concerned, when your mother dies, you’re a squatter in my house and I’m being benevolent. No list equals no gift.

A couple of other things to keep in mind.

On the day of your mother’s death, Legos officially become contraband. If you’re caught with Legos, you get a week in the sweat box in the back yard. If I step on a Lego, you get two weeks. If I step on a Lego and no one fesses up to the smuggled goods, all four of you forfeit your birthdays for the year. The same goes for dirty dishes left in the sink or on the kitchen counter. Any dirty dishes found in either of these locales will be dumped into the perpetrator’s bed. And while I’m at it, if I go to use the bathroom and there’s no toilet paper on the roll, any remaining rolls in the house will be locked in my bedroom closet, where they’ll be available for my use only. But recall that I am a benevolent overlord. I will provide each of the other bathrooms in the house with a sufficiently stocked bottle of hand sanitizer. Do what you must, just don’t touch the curtains, towels, or hand towels.

Lastly, everyone is responsible for their own laundry. If you don’t do your laundry, you’re going to have to wear dirty clothes. Dirty clothes stink. And guess what, even with dirty clothes, you’re still going to school, and you’ll most likely be labeled as the stinky kid. And because ninety-five percent of the clothing your mother has bought for you has to be hung up to dry, I’m selling the dryer. Seriously, I don’t know why we shelled out the cash to buy the stupid thing. It’s practically new, and on a day when laundry is being done, while it sits there idly staring at us all, the place looks a little bit like a terrorist blew up a laundromat. Right now, we only have two drying racks, which for a family of our size means that clothes are hanging everywhere—chairs, doors, on the bannister—everything is prime real estate for princess t-shirts, khakis, Under Armor sweatshirts, and polyester pajamas.

So, again, the kids had better pray that their mother outlives me, because if she doesn’t, they’ll have a whole lot more to worry about than the five stages of grief.

And let me tell you one more thing, if they… What?

No, I don’t.

What do you mean I sound like a grumpy old man? I’m just…

No, I’m not being too harsh. When have I ever shown myself to be too harsh?

Well, okay, maybe you’re right about Dewar’s. Maybe I have been a little harsh with them. But I only say that now that I’ve tried The Ancestor 12-year-old edition, which I’ll admit is actually pretty good.

It has a politely malty nose, one with slight impetuses of nougat and red papaya. There’s even a dig of smoke deep down at its base.

In the mouth, the whisky presents peaches and cream along with the tiniest pinch of ash stirred into some warmed caramel. All of this departs hurriedly through the malt from the nosing.

Okay, so, if Jen dies, I’ll go a little easier on the kids. How about this? How about they can each have four presents at Christmas instead of three, and they get fifteen minutes in the shower instead of ten? That seems kinder, don’t you think?

And their Legos. They can keep their Legos.

Sheesh. Okay. And they can keep the digital devices.

But I’m still selling the dryer. That’s a few hundred dollars’ worth of whisky money just sitting there in the laundry room. That’s just poor stewardship with the finances of a family that would be struggling with grief, and if there’s anything about this particular write-up that’s harsh, that’s it.