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Growing up in California, you get used to earthquakes. They’re impossible to predict, but you always know another one will come eventually. All you can do is prepare as best you can and then try to ride it out, both the initial jolt, and the inevitable aftershocks.

My mother is the reason I am a writer.

That simple sentence carries within it a multitude of dimensions, most of which we won’t explore here, but its fundamental truth is inescapable.

My mother is the reason I am a writer. And now she’s gone.

Mom left us a month ago today, slipping away peacefully in the middle of the night, at home, less than three weeks past her 90th birthday, with loved ones gathered around. She couldn’t have scripted it better herself, really—and she had a lot of experience at scripting things.

Her early writing was mostly poems and short stories. In college she graduated to writing plays. In time she would go on to write 26 published books. There are many, many more layers to her story, of course, much of it captured in briefest summary in her obituary.

For me and my brothers, Mom was a towering figure – an intense, vibrant, fierce, funny, melodramatic woman who authored all those books in between and all around raising four sons. To say she was larger than life is to underestimate the impact she had on us by some exponential factor.

For me, she was first a parent, then a teacher and ultimately a mentor, one capable of offering unconditional love and support while at the same time admonishing awkward phrases, incomplete ideas and unnecessary punctuation. Her gift for both crafting and generating drama also supplied me with more source material than I could ever exhaust in a single lifetime.

And now she’s gone, and it’s as if the earth has shifted beneath our feet and is still in the process of settling. We’ve all been thrown sideways, off balance, stumbling as we struggle to regain our equilibrium. It will come back in time, but right now our steps are tentative. The earth beneath our feet had been stable for so long we’d forgotten how hard it could shake, and how deep inside us those tremors could reach.

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