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You tend to think of "death bed" as absolutely singular, like "virginity" or "Oprah." In a manner befitting such a drama queen, however, my mom occupied at least a dozen death beds. During one particularly grave episode, she summoned my siblings one by one. When she was done making Linda, who had estranged herself, weep, Mom sent for Celeste, my first girlfriend.

"My mom wants to say goodbye, I guess," I told her. "Or maybe it's a maudlin please-take-care-of-my-boy thing."

She dutifully marched in, returning 20 minutes later, tears streaming down her cheeks. And then she burst out laughing.

"John's a bum," Mom had thoughtfully cautioned her. "He'll never hold a job. Don't saddle yourself with him. Get out."

It's dawning on me only now that I have no ending for this post. Except that Celeste eventually took her advice.