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The words are meant simply as a mild rebuke for something the other had thoughtlessly done.

The tone was low-keyed. The manner polite. The intent friendly.

The other bristled and took offense. The retort came out angry.

So began an exchange of recriminations.

Friends are friends no more.

O Lord, why do people have to be so sensitive!

My grandmother was a copious writer. Recently, I found a notebook, which I thought was a collection of miscellaneous observations, but further reading revealed it was a diary from 1948. She’d typed pages of everyday occurrences and observations from the oppressive summer heat in her Burbank, California home to deep philosophical ruminations about world events.

She also wrote about family strife. Her husband, Morris, had seven eccentric sisters whose lives overshadowed the happenings occurring between my grandmother’s three sisters and three brothers. The latter lives, in contrast, were dull.

While the event my grandmother wrote about in the invocation above probably had nothing to do with her immediate family, it illustrates the perpetual drama, which became a part of her life, following her marriage. With seven artistic, energetic sisters-in-law, each trying to success in a world where making an impact requires more than determination, there were continual marriages, divorces, births, jobs losses and successes, housing changes, and bickering among each other and in-laws. Contributing to the discord was a generous helping of mental illness, ranging from narcissism to nymphomania and schizophrenia.

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