Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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A Sad Anniversary

February 6, 2013

Thanks to all of you who have sent me kind wishes for a speedy recovery. I’ve been lying on my back for the past few days, missing my computer and the interaction I receive from all of you. Lately, I’ve had plenty of time to think; mostly I’ve been thinking about my Dad. Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of Dad’s passing. It happened unexpectedly, and when I think about that day five years ago I realize I still haven’t gotten over the shock.


When the lights went out at the Super Bowl Game this past Sunday my thoughts went back to another Super Bowl. In 2008 Mrs. Chatterbox and I were having a small Super Bowl party, just Mom and Dad. None of us were big football fans but the Super Bowl is a great time to get together, graze on munchies and watch expensive commercials. For reasons I can no longer remember, we were all rooting for Peyton Manning and the Giants, except for Mom who wasn’t following the game and kept talking through the commercials in spite of our admonitions that this was the one time you don’t talk through the commercials.


When half-time came Mom had had enough and wanted to go home. I remember being pissed because the game was only half over and Dad seemed to be having a great time. But Mom’s word was law. I retrieved Dad’s coat from a closet and helped him into it. We’d bought the coat for Dad a few Christmases earlier and now it seemed to swallow him.


After Mom and Dad departed, Mrs. Chatterbox and I watched Tom Petty’s halftime show along with the rest of the game. Back at his condo, Dad also watched the second half, and we were both jubilant over the Giants’ fourth quarter game-winning drive. He was bubbling with excitement and called when the game was over, thanking us for providing such a good time. I like to think I told him I loved him before I hung up, but I honestly don’t remember.


The phone rang at 6:10 AM the next morning. It was Mom, her voice laced with hysteria.


“Dad is dead!” she said.


I remember the fog of disbelief settling over me. “What? What are you saying?”


Mrs. C. jumped out of bed. “Who is it? Is it CJ? Has something happened? Is he alright?”


When I didn’t answer she grabbed the phone from my hand. I have no idea what Mrs. C. said to Mom, except, “Dial 911!” She must have repeated it half a dozen times before hanging up and dialing 911 herself.


My hands felt numb as I struggled into my clothes, trying to make sense of Mom’s words. She had to be wrong! This couldn’t be happening. Yesterday’s celebration was fresh in my head. But Mom hadn’t said Dad was dying. She’d said he was dead. Past tense. 


It was icy in Portland that February morning and I used a credit card to scrape the windshield. Mom and Dad lived only five miles away but it was still dark and ice made driving difficult. An eternity passed before we arrived to find a half dozen paramedics working on Dad. For a minute I thought they’d revived him. My hopes were dashed when the coroner appeared and pronounced him dead. I told myself this wasn’t happening. I was home asleep and this was a bad dream, but one look at Mom sitting in a chair in the corner, her face an expressionless mask, told me this wasn’t a dream.


I’ve mentally revisited that morning many times. Dad rose before Mom as he always did. He put on a fresh pot of coffee, laid out his morning pills and settled in his favorite armchair by the window. He had a book on his lap but he’d probably been watching the airplanes fly over Portland—Dad loved aviation. At some point Dad closed his eyes, drifted off to sleep and died of a heart attack. The paramedics said there were no signs of struggle. True to his nature, Dad left this world as unobtrusively as possible.


I have no idea if there’s an afterlife, even though it’s pleasant to believe in one. But I wonder what happens to those who pass away in their sleep without knowing they’ve died. I can’t imagine Dad as one of those wandering ghosts, unable to find peace. Dad was a remarkably peaceful guy, a generous soul who found great pleasures in small things and, like Will Rogers, never met a man he didn’t like. But I’ll always regret I never got to say goodbye to this kind, gentle man.


For five years Mrs. Chatterbox has reassured me that when my father called that night I did tell him I loved him. I hope she’s right.



—Shower the people you love with love—


James Taylor



I love you are parting words around here. It's the first thing hubby tells me every morning. Throughout the day too. The kids and grandkids are the same. It's so important. Your father knew that you loved him. After all you saw him the day before, not months of no contact. That means a lot in my book. He went out the way I want to go. Peacefully and with out pain. Have a terrific day. âº
By: Comedy Plus on February 6, 2013
What a beautiful tribute. I think your dad somehow knows, too. Would that we could all be remembered like that when we are gone~
By: Shelly on February 6, 2013
That's a sad story. My dad died of a heart attack four years ago June. At least he was in the hospital so there was no need to call 911 or anything. It is really hard to believe when you get that call but I suppose sooner or later it happens to everyone. And just to end with a little joke: Eli Manning is the quarterback for the Giants. But Peyton Manning makes so many commercials it's easy to think he must quarterback every team in the league.
By: PT Dilloway on February 6, 2013
As a father yourself, i'm sure you know and do not have to be told when your children love you. As a WASP I am uncomfortable when my kids say that to me (I know, pitiful isn't it). Your dad knew he was loved by you and many others, he knew by your actions, he knew by the look in your eyes, he knew by the tone of your voice. In many ways a father knows the signs without hearing the words. When last you talked, in many ways, you "told him" you loved him, and I'm sure he heard it loud and clear
By: Cranky Old Man on February 6, 2013
PT: Thanks for pointing this out. You are right of course, but then I did admit I wasn't much of a football fan.
By: Chubby Chatterbox on February 6, 2013
Whether or not you said it, HE KNEW!!!
By: fishducky on February 6, 2013
I'm so sorry that your dad is no longer with you. *Hugs. It sounds like he loved you very much.
By: Michael Offutt on February 6, 2013
He knew....never doubt it.
By: mindy on February 6, 2013
Losing a person you love in such a sudden, unexpected manner has to be difficult to come to grips with. Every post you do that talks about your dad, tells us how you loved him and what a nice man he was. I am sure he felt your love for him, even when it wasn't said verbally. (as to the matter of if you said it on the phone.... I am sure Mrs. C is right) I do think there is comfort to be had in the fact he passed in his sleep. Both Wayne and my parents had long painful deaths and that takes a toll of a different kind. I know you miss his actual presence in your life and I am sorry that you have an empty spot in your heart to deal with...on the other side of that coin, I am happy you had such a positive influence in your life. Everyone should have a dad that deserves a loving son.
By: Cheryl P. on February 6, 2013
Well, Stephen, if he didn't know before, he knows now. Joe nailed it. Many of us are really uncomfortable using those three words. We probably think they are overused? I think not. We just have to see them within the context of how they're meant. Then again, there isn't anything wrong with doing everything within our power to show we love someone.. _____ Thanks, PT, for pointing to the transposition of Eli and Peyton. It wouldn't do to have a lurker do it.
By: (not your) Uncle Skip on February 6, 2013
Most people are filled with regret when a loved one passes, not just the terrible grief of their passing but of what they should have, could have done differently. It sounds to me That your Dad had a great last day and perhaps he chose his time to go. I believe also that when he passed your Dad would feel your love, much stronger than any spoken word., He will also feel it now too because love doesn't have a day off, it is a part of us. Strongest when shared.
By: John on February 6, 2013
I can't help but envy anyone who has a good death because I've seen so many who didn't. I'm glad for Dad, and I'm glad for you that you have a final happy memory of seeing him so soon before he departed.
By: Snowbrush on February 6, 2013
I've been missing my mom a lot lately (January 26 would have been my parents' 50th wedding anniversary). I had the "luxury" of knowing she was dying so we had plenty of goodbyes. But I think your dad had the better deal - and OF COURSE he knew how much you loved him...
By: The Bug on February 6, 2013
::hugs:: Ya know I hate to cry at work,!
By: Hey Monkey Butt on February 6, 2013
A moving, authentic tribute to your dad. As others have already said, he would have known you loved him irrespective of how often you told him. From your communications over the last few months I suspect you display many of your dad's qualities so, in effect, he lives on within you. Wishing you a speedy recovery,Stephen.
By: Bryan Jones on February 6, 2013
Of course you told him you loved him! Your description of your Dad is so real and so poignant...anyone who reads your blog loves your Dad. We should all be so lucky to have Dad like yours. Once again- thanks for letting us into your home and heart.
By: Kathe W. on February 6, 2013
That is agreat story about your dad and your love for him. I was very fortunate....I was able to be with both my parents when they passed. And yes, I KNOW I told them I loved them. S
By: scott park on February 6, 2013
You are a fortunate son to have had such an admirable man as your role model and as your Dad. The way you write of him is a testament to his loving goodness as well as your own. He obviously knew you loved him, as you know he loved you. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on February 6, 2013
Your father's passing, while sudden and shocking to you, must have been peaceful-in his own chair and at ease. I think parents "know" when their children love them, surely as your father did. You honor him and his memory with your remembrance, as sorrowful as his passing was. Hope you are feeling better and getting back to normal quickly. As a reporter I'd be remiss if I didn't note that in the 2008 Super Bowl, you were rooting for Eli Manning, Peyton's younger brother.
By: Tom Cochrun on February 6, 2013
That really is such a sad, sweet story. You are a lucky man to have had such a father,
By: Al Penwasser on February 6, 2013
This is one of those times when i wish i could crawl through the interwebs and give someone a hug.
By: mimi on February 6, 2013
We all harbour regrets of omission but I have no doubt your father knew how you felt about him. It would be nice to know for sure that you said the words but as a dad yourself, I'm sure you know that they were not necessary. You know how your own boy feels about you. Your father knew also. And I'm sure your mother does, too. But it never hurts to say the words often. Hugs to you, CC.
By: Hilary on February 6, 2013
What a nice post and thoughtful tribute to your Dad! I always believe that an unexpected, quick death is best for the people who die and hardest on the people who stay behind. Wish I could give you a hug!
By: Pixel Peeper on February 6, 2013
Your words ooze love for your Dad.
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 6, 2013
You'll always have your memories to keep him alive in your heart. He'll never be forgotten. Through your words, we have gotten to know him, too.
By: Val on February 6, 2013
I don't think it matters if you said it or not - because you showed it. He felt it. That's important. I'm sorry for your loss ... five years is not very long in the big picture, especially for an abrupt loss like you had.
By: jenny_o on February 6, 2013
Stephen, I know exactly how you feel. Both of my parents died from cancer. My Mom at 51 and my Dad at 57. Mom fought it for two years, going through chemo and radiation. Dad only lived nine days from the time he was diagnosed, and all of those days in the hospital. Even when you know a loved one is dying, you are not ready or prepared when it happens. I believe your Father knew how much you loved him. Actions do speak louder than words.
By: Lighthousegal on February 6, 2013
Even if you didn't tell him you loved him I'm sure he knew. That must have been such a shock, but at least he died peacefully and hopefully without pain. I'm so sorry for your loss.
By: LL Cool Joe on February 7, 2013
I am so moved by your story. You were so lucky (and still are) to have had that relationship with your father. Whether you said "I love you" that last time or not (and it sure sounds like you did), what matters is that he knew you loved him. I don't think the last moment amounts to much. I think it's what's in our hearts leading up to that moment. Forgiveness, understanding, love, growth. There's a whole lifetime before that one final moment.
By: Mitchell is Moving on February 7, 2013
You have a beautiful way with words. I don't know if we ever get over that kind of shock. It's nice to know, though, that you and your dad had a strong, loving relationship. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on February 7, 2013
I have tears in my eyes reading your post. I know what it feels like to lose a parent... (Actually both now) You were with him the night before having a great time. I'm at a loss for words. Parents know their children love them whether it's said or not. Bless your heart!
By: Ellen on February 7, 2013
Stephen: I can relate, and I send you my sincere thoughts and prayers. There is a great love evident in this post.
By: Michael Manning on February 7, 2013
He died peacefully and without pain, which is something to be thankful for. Perhaps it was more painful for you. No matter how you look at it, it's a difficult passage ... but softened by your loving, touching memory.
By: Tom Sightings on February 7, 2013
I think all of us would want nothing more than be able to show and say to our parents that we love them before they leave us. This is such a sad story but one that is sweet for a son to write about. Thank you for sharing this with us.
By: Anne on February 8, 2013
What a touching post. You pay a loving tribute to your father here and it shows through loud and clear how you felt about him. Thank you for sharing. I hope I'm not going too far by adding my own thoughts here, but Stephen, I just want to tell you that you will see your father again and I am certain that he KNOWS you love him. I know this for myself and if that can give you any comfort than feel free to lean on my knowledge. I hope that you're feeling better soon! Sending healing vibes your way. :)
By: Nancy on February 8, 2013
sorry you've been feeling so unwell and for this loss even though it was years ago. i believe we always feel the loss of people we most loved. hugs.
By: lime on February 10, 2013
I'm just catching up on posts after a hectic few weeks. I hope you're feeling better now after your health scare. This was so moving and brought back memories of my own father's passing. Be grateful that your father went peacefully and didn't linger in pain. It sounds like he was a wonderful person, and I'm sure he knew how much you cared. You will see him again someday.
By: Patricia on March 3, 2013

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