When Tim died of AIDS 10 years ago, he was cremated. Half of his ashes went to his sister in Maine, who planted an oak tree in the Wiccan tradition. We left the other half for his boyfriend, and that, we thought, was the last of it — until October. We got a registered letter from the funeral parlor telling us that Tim’s ashes had been abandoned for a decade and that if we did not pick them up, his remains would be disposed of. So I drove to Duggan’s and brought the second half of Tim home.

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Somewhere in the world, triplets are turning 14 this week, on the feast of St. Serafina, the Little Angel.

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Remember, man, that thou art dust

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Fifty years ago, Pop and Nurse Vivian took us to the Coram Drive-In Theater for a double feature of “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” After Ann-Margret sang the credits, we headed back through the scrub pines to the bungalow in Yaphank. As we approached an underpass trestle for the Long Island Railroad, we saw a figure wrapped in blankets lying on the road. I was terrified, but Pop, because dads do brave things, got out of the car and walked up to the body. He pulled the blanket back, then walked back to our red Chevrolet station wagon.

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Middle names are like tattoos. They reveal our true selves, unlike nicknames that are the ready-to-wear of nomenclature, worn for a season or two, then left in the back of the closet. Like Nehru jackets and bell-bottoms, I’ve worn the nicknames Kip, Sputnik and Super P. But the inner me will always be Thaddeus.

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Found myself baking a cherry pie on a Friday night.

In St. Anthony of Padua Grammar School, in South Ozone Park, we had two holidays in February: President Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday (Feb. 12) and President George Washington’s Birthday (Feb. 22).

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South Ozone Park was not a sanctuary city, not in the formal sense. On the Irish block of the Italian parish, every mother — Jeannie McCormick, Margie Carbone, Edna Malowitz and especially my mother, Nurse Vivian — knew every boy, so if I was digging a hole to China, Peggy McCaffery saw to it that I didn’t touch the roots of Linda Puccarella’s sycamore trees. If I fell off my bicycle, Sally Cadden offered me sweet milky tea and a slice of buttery soda bread, with caraway seeds. All the neighbors looked out for one another.

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My mother, Nurse Vivian, didn’t get her driver’s license until the 1960s. And then she drove a secondhand red Chevrolet station wagon, the kind with fins. I tended to get carsick in the backseat, so to keep me busy, she paid me a penny for every car I saw with a Pennsylvania license plate, a nickel for Florida and a quarter for states west of the Mississippi. This is how I learned geography.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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