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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Function: noun Etymology: French détritus 1. loose material resulting from disintegration 2. a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away

CHERRY HILL, N.J. - This dresser drawer was filled with used and unused lightbulbs of all things, when after about an hour of searching and cleaning in my late grandmother's bedroom, I hit the jackpot.

There staring up at me was a beautiful, big black and white picture of my late mother. She's at least 10 years younger than I am now, sitting in a field looking over her shoulder at the camera, wildflowers just touching her shoulder length hair.

She looks radiant and hopeful for the future - a far cry from her final days after cancer had slowly stripped her life away. Then it hits me hard that I've seen this photo before.

My father carried a wallet-size version of it with him when he served in the Army during the Korean War. Tattered and torn at the edges, it was one of the first family photos he had me scan into his computer and repair four years ago.

"She was dating a photographer when I met her," my dad says quixotically, leaving my mind to ponder the mystery behind his words.

I've long known that when my mom married my dad she was desperate to leave this house. In her early 20s, she was poor and simply couldn't stand living with her parents anymore - especially her mom.

Ironically, it was a bond they shared.

After a couple more hours of cleaning and talking, my dad explained that my grandmother did virtually the same thing when she married my grandfather - a slightly crazy insurance salesman and one-time bookie far below her parents' social status.

My mind reels when I realize my sister did it too when she married her first husband at about the same age. Generational dysfunction appears to be hereditary in my family. Another lovely inheritance I hope never to pass on to my children, if I ever have them.

I made other smaller discoveries yesterday as well while we started clearing out my grandparents' home, readying it for new owners.

My grandmother moved out of the master bedroom after my grandfather died when I was five, but never emptied his drawers. In one, I found a jewelry box containing his silver watch and ring and proudly presented them to my uncle.

 Late in life, my grandmother started hoarding paper goods for some reason. In separate trips to my uncle's car, I carried out at least eight boxes of tissues, several huge bundles of paper towels and a pcak after pack of toilet paper. Did she think that the companies would stop making them at some point?

As exhaustion neared, a neighbor not much older than me walked in and remarked about how clean my grandmom kept her home. And as we prepared to leave, another neighbor younger than me waved while replacing a divot at the edge of his driveway.

The cycle of life begins again in tree-lined suburbia.


Should I shave my beard?

Shave it (Clean up your act)
Keep it (It suits your face)
Let it grow (Go ZZ Top and flip it up)

Current Results

As I wrote in last week's column, I've decided to let you readers decide whether I should shave off the variation of a goatee and a balbo I've been sporting since the late '80s.

So far only 10 folks have cast their electronic ballots and half of them think I should keep it.

Is that truly what you think?

Should I cave in to the peer-pressure from the clean shaven or cast aside the razor? This is your last chance to tell me what to do with it.

At least through the end of hockey playoff season.

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

April 19, 2004