A letter to my mother-in-law about my 3 boys.

You always stole my thunder. You gave them everything they wanted. You never said no when they asked for anything.

All photos by Tina Plantamura, used with permission.


A second helping of dessert. Candy before dinner. A few more minutes in the bath. Money for the ice cream truck.

I struggled to show you respect and appreciation while trying to make sure you didn’t spoil my children. I thought you would turn them into “selfish brats” by giving them everything they wanted. I thought they might never learn to wait, to take turns, to share, because you granted their wishes as soon as they opened their mouths and pointed.

You held each one of my babies long after they fell asleep. Didn’t you understand that I needed them to learn to fall asleep on their own?

You ran to them as soon as they made the tiniest sound. How would they ever learn to self-soothe?

I resented you for buying the best and most expensive gifts on their birthdays and on Christmas. How could I possibly compete with you?

"I thought they might never learn to wait, to take turns, to share, because you granted their wishes as soon as they opened their mouths and pointed."

And how they loved afternoons spent with you. You made their favorite things for dinner — three different meals for three different boys. And you always had a little surprise. A present, candy, or a special treat. I didn’t want them to associate you with gifts and sweets. I thought they should love you for you. I tried to tell you this, but you wouldn’t listen.

I spent a lot of time wondering why you did all these things and how I could get you to ease up. I know grandmothers are supposed to “spoil the kids” then send them home, but you were ... ridiculous.

Until you were gone.

I had to hold my boys and tell them that their grandma died. It didn’t seem possible — you were supposed to be there for all the other special moments: proms, graduations, weddings. But they lost their grandma too soon and too suddenly. They were not ready to say goodbye.

During those years when I wished you’d stop spoiling them, I never thought about how much you loved them. So much that you showed it in every way possible. Your cooking. The gifts. The candy and sweets. Your presence. The way you could recount every detail of a special moment, whether it was a perfect catch in the outfield or a sweet and slightly off-key note sung at a school concert. Your grandmotherly love for them knew no bounds. Your heart poured love from every place possible — your kitchen, your pocketbook, your words, and your tireless arms.

It’s pointless to dwell on regrets, but I often think about how I had it all wrong. I was so wrong in how I perceived your generosity.

My kids, now in their teens, miss you dearly. And they don’t miss your gifts or your money. They miss you.

They miss running to greet you at the door and hugging you before you could step in. They miss looking up at the bleachers and seeing you, one of their biggest fans, smiling and enthralled to catch their eye. They miss talking to you and hearing your words of wisdom, encouragement and love.

If I could speak to you one more time, I would tell you that every time a precious moment steals my heart, every time I watch them arrive at a new milestone, and every time they amaze me with their perseverance, talents, or triumphs, I think of you. And I wish that they could have you back.

Come back and love them one last time, like no one else in the world but a grandmother could. Bring your sweets and surprises. Reward them with gifts for the smallest accomplishments. Painstakingly prepare their favorite meals. Take them anywhere they want to go. All and only because you love them.

Come back and see how much they’ve grown. Watch each boy becoming his own version of a young man. Be in awe with me as we admire how family, friendship, time, and love helped them grow so beautifully over the years.

The more I long for you to come back, though, the more I realize that in a way, you never left.

I understand now. I know you loved them in every way you could. I know that being their grandma gave you joy and purpose. And of course I know that you can’t come back, but I do know that your love for them will always remain. Your love built them and sheltered them in ways that cannot be described. Your love is a big part of who they are and what they will become as they grow. For this, and for every treat and gift, and every time you held them too long or consoled them too much or let them stay up too late, I will always thank you.

And I will wish a million times that you could do it all again.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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