Dear Family and Friends,
In Joe and Nancy’s dreams, this was to be the year of empty nesting. It
would be the year when screaming hot sex could be had with the door WIDE open, one could take a hot shower without losing
water pressure, and could Tivo any show without first having to delete multiple episodes of reality TV
shows with names like “Who’s My Baby Daddy?,” “Your Momma’s a Ho” or “Jack My Ride.”
Instead, Joe and Nancy awoke to
the sound of their two adorable young adults sucking money out of the household bank account like it was the dispensing nozzle
of a beer keg. It’s not like Nancy and Joe were going to remodel the house, buy luxury cars and fine champagne, or take
exotic vacations. Joe and Nancy recognize that when it comes to their kids, there will be much more interesting
ways to spend money, like out-of-state tuition, bail, therapy programs, and the finest defense lawyers money can buy.
After 15 months of free spending, fast cars,
faster women and “unlawful assemblies” at his parents’ house while said parents were out of town, Jimmy’s
Manhattan Beach lifestyle is now much like that shared by penitentiary convicts confined to Cell Block D. A
testament to his parent’s ability to make anything preferable to living at home, including crawling through mud with
a 70 lb. pack, being shot at, and called “Dung Beetle” or the ever-popular “Maggot”, Jimmy, now 20,
joined “the few, the proud, the Marines” and will ship off for basic training in May, 2012. As Nancy sees it,
this is like raising a pet goat for the 4-H club, selling it to Al Qaeda, and having it show up as goat kebabs at a “Pita
King” in Afghanistan. Joe and Nancy understand that among the skills the Marines will teach Jimmy will be how to “duck”.
They’re hoping Jimmy understands that to mean “hit the dirt” as opposed to “quacking”.
Taylor, 19, is currently “finding herself”
as a freshman at Arizona State University. Given that her room at home looked like an episode of “Hoarders”, she
might have just dug through the piles of clothes and found not only herself but some of the other responsibilities she’s
been avoiding without the costly out-of-state tuition. Taylor managed a fleeting moment of inspiration this year, writing
a speech that was accepted as one of the Mira Costa High senior commencement speeches; something about life being like bungee
jumping, which is pretty much how her parents envision her college campus life---just one big leap into the fraternity party
punch bowl. As a graduation present, Taylor was scheduled to take a school trip to Japan this past spring. But her parents
felt the additional radiation exposure from the Fukushima power plant offered no chance of improving her academic standing.
Instead, Joe and Nancy hastily arranged to accompany their daughter on a trip to Prague and Amsterdam.
The “Holy Grail” on this trip turned out to be shoes,
and Taylor pursued them with the dogged determination of a Kardashian. She fell in love with a pair that Nancy and Joe had
last seen curling up under a house in Munchkin Land. Unfortunately, the last pair in Taylor’s size
in all of the Netherlands was in a small town 30 miles outside of Amsterdam. And so Taylor and Joe, “Dumb” and
“Dumber”, with no more sense than God gave a wheel of Gouda cheese, biked, bused and walked to the little store
to purchase the last pair, which took them until 9:30pm because Joe’s bike broke down and they had to ride tandem some
20 miles back into Amsterdam. Nancy, having more sense, took the train to the little town, had some Gewürztraminer at
a small café, took the train back, napped, and enjoyed some more wine and “stroop wafels” until Joe and
Taylor returned, cranky and yelling at each another over a lousy pair of shoes.
Joe lost 40 lbs this year. And unlike the other things he loses, like his car
keys, wallet and glasses, Nancy has no intention of helping him find them. Joe competed again in the Hermosa Beach mini-triathlon.
Having lost the weight, he no longer competes in the Clydesdale division and now is in that other category of aging horseflesh,
the “Glue Factory” division, where he finished in the top third. Joe recently became employed with International
SOS, a company that works with university study abroad programs and American corporations overseas providing medical assistance,
thus combining Joe’s love of traveling with Nancy’s uncanny ability to get sick in any country. He also continues
his obsession with tennis. Now, when you hear the term “the Iceman Cometh” it refers to Joe limping down the hall
wearing the large assortment of ice packs and frozen peas that is the result of his weekly tennis games.
Nancy continues the self-flagellation that is working for Providence
Health & Services. She acquired her green belt in karate this year and competed in the senior intermediate division of
kata (choreographed moves) at the Los Angeles World Karate Championships. This feels very much like lap dancing except that
you’re wearing overly large pajamas, the color of your belt doesn’t match your toenail polish and no one is rewarding
you with folding money. At every turn you’re confronted by one of four Japanese judges whose faces suggest they’ve
spent the afternoon eating bad sushi. Nancy managed to place third in a hotly contested field of four.
For that, she got a trophy the size of the Washington monument which is now gathering dust, much like Nancy herself, in the
very back of the trophy case at her dojo.
In October, Nancy learned she had malignant melanoma. Her dermatologist had learned this back in 2010 but, through
a tragic office snafu, had not told Nancy. This was pretty ironic given that Jimmy and Taylor call their mom “Casper”
and that Nancy sees about as much sun as a mushroom. And that’s how Nancy suddenly found herself in a horse race where
the fast horse is “Malignant Melanoma” and the other horses are “Unlucky Lady”, “Bucket List”,
“God’s Plan”, “Affairs in Order” and, rounding out the field, “How Will She Tell Her Elderly
Mother?”. And when “Malignant Melanoma” already has a several furlongs lead on you, you run like the wind.
The good news is that after being carved like a Christmas goose, there’s been no metastasis and Nancy’s prognosis
After that bit of
news, Joe and Nancy finally took a vacation without their kids. Nancy’s sister Elise and Elise’s husband, Larry,
invited both their families to a sort of family reunion at their new, luxury “compound” in San Cosme, Mexico,
which, when you invite the Franklins, is like inviting the cast of “The Hangover” to Buckingham Palace. Nancy,
in her newly-acquired assortment of sun-repelling burkas, thoroughly enjoyed being on the Sea of Cortez. They saw dolphins,
sea turtles, tuna, marlin, sailfish and even a small pod of whales which turned out to be Joe, and Nancy’s sister Carol,
doing the Saturday Night Live version of synchronized swimming.
And so, as 2011 comes to an end, the Franklins give thanks for family, good friends and military discipline.
And they remind you to keep those annual health care check-ups so we can have you all around
for years to come. May you have many blessings in 2012.
Love- Joe, Nancy, Jimmy and
this and past holiday letters can be found at www.mirthquakes.com)