You'll spend the next four years of high school together but it won't end there. No, you'll be brothers for life. That's what they told us on day one at Xaverian Brothers High School. September 1986.
I'm not actively in touch with most of my Xaverian friends, but I know if I needed their help, they would respond. As I would for them.
When Ten Days With Dad launched in 2022, one of my brothers, Chuck Zammito, reached out to sponsor the book. He's been my trusted insurance agent and friend for 33 years. Earlier this year, he was one of the first Greatest Blessing book sponsors.
Admittedly, I always imagined my first book to be one of fiction, but those weren't the cards I was dealt. (That book is coming.) Still, becoming a published author fulfilled a lifelong dream. The next "dream" is to become a full-time writer. I love my job, my company, and my customers; but to be able to write every day and make a living doing so; to impact the lives of complete strangers because of my words in a book or blog. Or to help others share their stories.
Sign me up.
For now, just being able to say, "I am an author," or "I have published two books," is an incredible feeling. Yet probably the most amazing feeling I've experienced since the start of this journey is receiving feedback from friends, former friends, and strangers. This one came from a childhood friend from Norwell, posted on Amazon.
It is hard to find someone who can put into words what we truly experience as adults when we, in turn, become parents to our parents. This book goes far beyond this, inspiring and encouraging us beyond enduring pain and disappointment to moving to a place of forgiveness of ourselves, our parents and life circumstances. As a daughter who has lived through my mother's 7 year battle with Parkinson's and Louis Body Dementia, this book puts into words the emotions and process that I could not only relate to, but needed for my own closure. Reading this book, I felt the connection to the seasons of life that we endure as children growing through adulthood and how we can come out better for them. Practical in so many ways, this all needed to be said. Thank you for writing this for all of us, Mark. Life can be better and this book takes us to that place.
Believe me, Amazon reviews are not necessary to stroke my ego, but they are necessary. More reviews equals more social proof; trust that my book can make a difference in people's lives. How many times have you researched a product and gone with the item that had the most five-star ratings?
Often, I am sure.
This is why Mike, Alan, and I will be asking (as frequently and politely as possible), for you to post a review on Amazon for The Greatest Blessing. (And it is most certainly not too late to post one for Ten Days With Dad. Please and thank you.)
About a month after Ten Days came out, I received a letter in the mail. It was from another brother of mine, one whom I hadn't spoken to in quite some time. This classmate of mine took the time to write me a three-page, handwritten note about the book and its impact on him. I was floored, and not at all ashamed to say that I cried.
Two more brothers shared their caregiving stories for The Greatest Blessing, and many more have reached out to me since the publishing of both books.
My youngest son, Sean, will have his own brothers for life. Now a senior, it's hard to believe he'll be going off to college next year, and playing college golf, too. I'm still trying to break 90 and he's upset with anything over par.
You're likely expecting me to follow up with, "How time flies," or "Where does the time go?"
Nope. Not this time.
Both are true, of course. But we know where the time goes, don't we? Most of the time, it goes where we allow it to.
Time doesn't fly when you're young because it's rarely being tracked. Street hockey games on Beers Ave went on until we got the call, "Come in for dinner!" There was always somebody telling us where to be next. "Get ready for practice. Do your homework. Don't be late for school."
As parents, however, our lives are controlled by time or lack thereof. Especially when called to serve as a caregiver. There's an endless number of tasks, little and large, that need to be done while caring for a loved one. Sometimes, they are insurmountable and the burden becomes unbearable. And sometimes, those tasks are filled with such joy and love, that one can't help but feel blessed.
I co-authored The Greatest Blessing for many reasons, but one in particular stands out: to remind caregivers that they are not alone in this journey. As a caregiver, it's crucial that you rely on your "brothers for life." You have them—we all do—but often they are not the people you expect. They could be a sister-in-law, a parent of a former player you coached years ago, a classmate, a co-worker from the job before, or even a former spouse. Accept help, regardless of whom or where it comes from.
Trust me, people are willing and capable to help. But when they do ask, it's on us to take them up on it. Do what Matt Perrin did when caring for his mom with Alzheimer's: keep a short list of specific tasks on your phone, so that when people ask, can I help? you actually have a response/task ready.
I'm grateful to my dad for sending me to Xaverian Brothers High School. I experienced four tremendous years on Clapboardtree Street. I'm also grateful to my teachers and coaches, who reminded us from the very beginning that my classmates and I (and every other alumnus) would be brothers.