Avoid Imposing Values

You’ve probably heard the personal development advice to think about what you want your gravestone to say. Or to imagine yourself at the end of your life and ask what advice you on your deathbed would tell yourself today. They’re useful quick mental exercises. Rarely do you see them play out in person. I once did.

My mom remarried when I was seven. My two sisters and I acquired a stepbrother, stepsister, and stepfather. Thanksgiving and July 4 were spent at my stepfather’s family’s house—his two brothers; their families; and, hosting the all-American affairs; his mother and step-father. Squire, the friendly cocker spaniel, completed the Norman Rockwell scene.

Sam, the patriarch, was its center, along with his ...

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