I Am Not Lazy
“Hey, Mom, where did you find that?” Jennifer pointed to a framed piece of embroidery hanging on the dining room wall.
Kathleen stopped setting the table for her family’s Christmas dinner to stare at the elaborate needlework done in bright colors. “I found it in a box of my Aunt Roselyn’s stuff. She had a garage full of junk that I stupidly agreed to take after she died. I finally got around to sorting through it.”
“Did Roselyn do the work? It’s so neatly done, and the colors are beautiful.”
“No, she couldn’t sew on a button. But her daughter, Sandra, was another story. She was a year older than me, pretty as hell with lots of guys hanging around, so they say. I only met her a few times. They lived in Jersey, had a hard time of it during the ‘60s, but then who didn’t? Roselyn’s husband left them for some floozy and she had to work a lot of jobs to keep it together. Say, aren’t you gonna ask me about the words?” Kathleen pointed to the embroidery.
Jennifer grinned. “I will, Mom, if you let me get a word in edgewise.” She leaned back in her chair and studied the embroidery that almost shouted the boldly stitched sentences – I am not lazy! I am not crazy! “So, do you know the story behind–?”
“Not much of it. Maybe it’s me who’s the lazy one.”
Kathleen went to a hutch and removed two battered notebooks from a bottom drawer. “Here, look these over. My vision isn’t what it used to be and their handwriting is terrible.”
Jennifer raised her eyebrows. “What’s this about?”
“They’re diaries belonging to Roselyn and her daughters. I can’t make heads or tails out of them. Maybe you can.”
“Where did you find them?”
“They were stuffed in a box along with the rest of my Aunt’s–”
With a crash of doors and stomping of boots, Jennifer’s two brothers with their wives and kids entered the house after a morning of ice fishing on Saginaw Bay. She stuffed the diaries into her capacious purse and forgot about them until the next day.
Sitting in her above-the-garage apartment, in front of a big screen TV with the sound off and a football game flashing, Jennifer paged through the thick notebooks. Both of the women wrote in a crimped cursive style and in great detail, Aunt Roselyn from the 1930’s and her daughter Sandra starting in the early ‘60s. They recalled events, conversations, inner thoughts, complaints, regrets, the whole nine yards.
Jennifer made a cup of hot tea and settled in for a snowy Michigan afternoon. As a 42-year-old divorcee, she was used to it. Slowly, over the following weeks, the pieces of Roselyn’s and Sandra’s stories came together. And the things not spelled out in the diaries, Jennifer imagined and filled in the gaps.
Sandra and her boyfriend crouched alongside the gymnasium. Jimmy cupped a joint in his hands and struggled to light it with his zippo. Finally succeeding, he handed it to Sandra. She drew in a lungful of smoke, held it as long as she could, then exhaled.
“Ya know, this really sucks,” Jimmy muttered between tokes.
“No kidding,” Sandra said. “I’ll be stuck at home forever.”
“So, what’s wrong with the old lady, anyway?”
“Grammy Stokes had some kinda flu when she was young, after World War I, it messed up her heart. Now she can’t take care of herself.”
“Why don’t your Mom put her in a home?”
Sandra scoffed, “Are you kiddin’? If we could afford a rest home, Mom wouldn’t be workin’ three jobs.”
“What about your Pop?”
“The creep ditched us for that checker at the A&P. We haven’t heard from him in four months.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Yeah, well it’s not something I blab about.”
The two huddled in the December wind and watched snow flurries blow across the high school’s quadrangle. Sandra had to go home right after school, to take care of the old woman while her Mom went off to her dinner shift at the café, wearing a waitress uniform meant for an 18-year-old.
Sandra stood. “I gotta split. See ya tomorrow in class?”
He flashed her the peace sign. “Cool. You want some grass to take with you?”
“Yeah, roll me a couple joints.”
Jimmy grinned. “Ya know, I was thinkin’ about summer comin’ up. Maybe we could hitchhike to Montreal and check out Expo ‘67.”
Sandra leaned forward and kissed him. “I’d love to, but I have to wait until the old lady dies to get away. I couldn’t leave my Mom with such a mess.”
“Some teenager you are,” Jimmy said, a smirk creasing his pale face.
At home, Roselyn scolded Sandra for being late. She primped her hair in the hallway mirror and dashed out the door to work the 4 to 10 shift at HoJos, just off the Jersey Turnpike. Sandra eased into the downstairs bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed.
“No luck, today. I’m still alive.” The old woman cackled, pushed the covers back, and struggled into a sitting position.
“Grammy, you have to stop saying that.”
“Why? It’s true. You’re stuck here with me. A good lookin’ girl like you should be out with her friends, with boys. When I was 18, we used to take the train into New York City and…”
She could only talk in short bursts before stopping to catch her breath. Sandra went to her side and laid a hand on her forehead. “You seem cool. Do you want an aspirin anyway?”
“No, they make my tummy ache. Just sit with me for a while and tell me about your day.”
“Well, school sucks as usual…but I kinda like my art class and in English we’re learning to write poems like Shakespeare did, ya know, sonnets.”
“Read me your poems, dear. Paul used to do that for me when I got sick. He liked the classics.”
The old woman lay quietly in bed with the black-and-white Philco turned off while her Granddaughter read lines of love sonnets that she’d composed for English class. The two women talked about how hard it was to write and how keeping journals helped. But eventually their conversation circled back to Jimmy.
“Yeah, he wants to take me to the World’s Fair in Montreal this summer, ya know, Expo ‘67.”
“How would you get there? Does he have a car? Won’t your Mother be furious?”
“Hitchhike, no, and yes,” Sandra said. “I’ve never gone away with a boy before. But we wouldn’t be gone forever.”
“Don’t be so sure of that.” Grammy grinned, showing the stubs of worn-down teeth.
“It’s time for your medicine.” Sandra moved across the room to a dresser covered with pill bottles. She removed the prescribed doses from seven containers.
The old lady grimaced when Sandra handed her the medications and a glass of water. “Damn stuff doesn’t do any good. I don’t know why I take ‘em. And you and your Mama keep fixin’ me enough food to feed an army. Will you guys cut that out?”
“Sure, Grammy, sure. But we worry about you when you don’t eat.”
“I know, honey. But that shouldn’t be your problem. There’s enough to worry about in this world – Vietnam, nuclear war, race riots, beating the Russians to the moon. You guys have to fit love and adventure in there somewhere.”
“I know, I know.”
“Did I ever tell you about the time Paul and I got caught in a hurricane in the Florida Keys? They put us on a train to get us the hell out of there. But the storm waves pushed us right off the tracks. That was some wild trip.”
Every day, Jennifer left her Administrative Assistant job at the Bay City Clinic and returned to her dark apartment. Over a Swanson’s dinner and a cocktail, she cracked open the two diaries, eager to see how Sandra and the scrappy old woman got along, to see if Sandra ran away with Jimmy, to figure out why the girl would create such a strange piece of embroidery with those ridiculous sentences about not being lazy or crazy.
On Valentine’s Day evening, Jennifer’s cell phone rang. “What are you doing tonight?” her mom asked. “Are you going out with anyone? And if you are, please tell me it’s with a man.”
“Just because I haven’t dated in a while doesn’t make me a lesbian.”
“A while? Try three years, unless you’ve had some secret lover on the side.”
“Mother, I’m forty-two. I can get along just fine without a man.”
“I know, kiddo. But it’s been five years since you divorced that fool, Roger. You need to find someone…”
“Well, what about you? We’re both alone, ya know.”
“I had your father for nearly 50 years. I have enough memories to fill my heart. While you…”
Jennifer didn’t say anything, gave her Mother the ole silent treatment.
Finally, Kathleen spoke. “I’m sorry, honey. I don’t mean to criticize. I just hate to see you so lonely. Say, what have you found out about that embroidery cousin Sandra stitched?”
“Not much yet. I have a hard time reading their diaries. But I’ll let you know when I discover something. What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?”
Kathleen cleared her throat. “Well, there’s this nice gentlemen from my bridge club who’s taking me out to dinner. We’re just friends, you know, but I’m sure he wants more. I’d invite you along, but three really is a crowd.”
“I know, M-o-t-h-e-r. You have a wonderful time and I’ll call you tomorrow.” Jennifer hung up the phone. She wondered if her Mom had called just to let her know she had a date and to make her own daughter jealous. If that was her intent, she succeeded.
Jennifer mixed herself a martini and focused again on the diaries, hoping there’d be something juicy about Jimmy and young love.
“I’ve got something important to ask you,” Grammy Stokes said on a snowy afternoon.
“What is it?” Sandra asked. “You look all serious. You’re kinda scaring me.”
“I don’t mean to. But it’s a big request.”
“What…what do you want? I’ll do it if I can.”
“I want you to help me die.”
The sunlight streaming through the side window dimmed. Sandra looked down at the un-smiling woman, trying to decide whether she’d heard correctly.
“What…wa….” She licked her lips and swallowed. “What the hell are you talkin’ about?”
“You don’t need to get nasty, dear.”
“Yes, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I see how hard you and your Mother work, and it…it makes me feel guilty to be taking all your time. At 91, I’m too old to feel guilty. It’s time for me to leave, and I want you to help me.”
“I don’t want you to die,” Sandra blurted. “I…I love our time together. You have so many stories, things to tell me.”
“I know, I know. But hanging on for months, maybe years, is not something I wanna do. I’ve lived long enough.”
“But Grammy, you–”
“Besides, you deserve to have adventures after high school. Your Mother deserves to have her own life, to look for another husband. None of that’s gonna happen with me around.”
“But help you die? Isn’t that against the law? Isn’t it a sin?”
“No, dear, it’s called mercy. And like the bard says, ‘The quality of mercy is not strained…’”
“Is it really so bad to live here with us?” Sandra wiped tears from her cheeks and sucked in a deep breath.
“Of course not. But it’s selfish. And I’ve never been selfish and don’t want to start.”
“I don’t know if I can help you…”
“I’d get down on my knees and beg, honey, but I can’t get outta bed. You won’t have to do much of anything.”
“Let me think about it.”
For the rest of that week, Sandra walked around in a daze. She sat quietly at her desk in school and doodled in her notebook. And she wouldn’t go near Jimmy. By the weekend, she had decided.
“Grammy, about your request…”
The old woman stared into her eyes, a smile spreading across her face.
“Yes, I’ll help you. But I won’t do anything that causes you a lot of pain, understood?”
Grammy let out a deep breath. “Thank you, and no, you won’t have to hurt me.”
“So, how…how will we do it?”
“It’ll take some time but you have to flush the pills you give me every day down the toilet. And stop feeding me dinner and breakfast.”
“You want me to starve you to death? I…I can’t.”
“I’m never hungry anymore. It’s repulsive for me to eat. And if I don’t take my heart medications, I’ll probably die in my sleep long before I starve.”
“This seems all too cruel, Grammy. I don’ know.”
“It’ll be the best thing you can do for me. The best…”
Jennifer put Sandra’s journals down and gulped the remains of her cocktail. No one in the family had ever talked about how Grammy Stokes had died, much less whether Sandra had any part in it. Her stomach did a flip-flop and she ran to the bathroom to shout into the big porcelain telephone. Crouching on the tile floor in the growing darkness, she trembled. The apartment depressed her, the walls closed in. Her life sucked. She imagined herself years from then, trying to figure out her own final exit, and without someone loving like Sandra to help or at least hold her hand.
After washing her face and applying new makeup, she moved to the bedroom and pulled on a pretty blouse, scarf, and her best winter coat. She had to see other people, to hear voices, to make contact with somebody, anybody. The icy roads proved treacherous and she nearly put her Chevy in the ditch more than once. The full parking lot at Harvey’s proved that not everybody could afford a fancy Valentine’s Day dinner. She slipped inside, pushed her way into the bar and began working her way down the list of all-day drink specials.
She remembered what Sandra had written about Jimmy in her diary, how skinny and pale he was, how his shyness kept him from sharing much of anything unless he got stoned, how clumsy he was the first time they did it, but how much better he’d become, how he could make her orgasm so hard that she trembled for minutes afterward. Jennifer felt her face flush. She studied the drink menu, trying to decide the best sequence of purchases.
“May I buy you the next one? You seem intent on drinking more than a few.”
Jennifer twisted on her stool and studied the tall dude wearing jeans and a John Deere baseball cap.
“You may. Make it a Bloody Mary. And you’re right – tonight, drinks are my friends.”
He wore a wrinkled flannel shirt and his hands had dirt under the nails. But his smile looked genuine and he didn’t speak with a phony Texas “y’all,” a Southern “how-do,” or an upper Midwest “you betcha.”
“It’s Valentine’s Day. What’s a pretty woman like you doing here alone?”
“I could ask you the same thing – except you’re not a woman. You aren’t, are you?”
The man almost choked on his drink, his laughter warm and blending with the bar sounds. “No, last time I checked, I was all man. And I suppose I’m here for the same reason you are.”
“And what’s that?”
Jennifer felt her face warm. The guy’s openness impressed her, or maybe he just read her correctly and thought being straightforward would be a better pickup strategy. “Am I that easy to read?”
“Yes, but there’s no crime in being lonely…only if you do nothing to change things.”
“Wow, a farmer-philosopher. I’m stunned.”
He chuckled. “I actually teach computer science at Delta College. I’m wearing my out-on-the-town redneck disguise.”
“Thanks. So…so what’s your name, if I may ask?”
“My name’s James…but my friends call me Jimmy.”
Her mind flashed back to the last passages of Sandra’s diary she’d read, and re-read, the account of the hippie couples’ steamy lovemaking.
“Did I say something wrong?” he asked. “You seemed to disappear for a moment.”
“No…not at all. You’re…you’re the second Jimmy I’ve thought about today.”
“Well, I hope I’ll be the last. I can’t compete with all the world’s Jimmys.”
It was Jennifer’s turn to chuckle. “Don’t worry, you won’t have to…the other one is probably dead.”
“Yikes – loneliness and death, all in our first conversation. It’s got to lighten up from here.”
They exchanged life stories, at least the first round of disclosures. Jennifer held back the most sensitive parts: the childless marriage and divorce, the first attempts at rehab, and the on-again off-again twelve step programs.
He followed her home in his pickup to make sure she got there safely. They sat in his truck and talked until her legs went numb from the cold. She invited him in. He declined, but insisted on them meeting again that weekend, “…this time for a real date.”
She watched the sunrise from the widow over the driveway, sipped strong coffee and waited to call her Mother. I’ll bet I had a better Valentine’s night than she did. She let her mind drift back to Sandra’s diary and its almost-pornographic passages. She opened the dog-eared notebooks and read some more.
The winter of 1967 pounded New Jersey, dumping almost 20 inches of snow in February. Sandra got up early in the morning to fake-feed Grammy and came home after school to spend as much time as she could with her.
They talked about the old woman’s adventures in New York City before World War I: riding the new subways, visiting Harlem filled with coloreds moving in from the South, the crush of Italian and Polish immigrants, the political reformers, and the talk of war in Europe.
Grammy’s stories made Sandra feel that she was missing out on her own times, that she should hitchhike across the U.S., head for San Francisco like all the flower children. And those thoughts made her feel guilty for wanting to leave the old woman.
“You know, they talked a lot about President Wilson keeping us out of the war,” Grammy said. “But we never had any such demonstrations in the streets like this Vietnam thing has caused. Most of the men wanted to go fight.”
“Different times, different war,” Sandra muttered.
Weeks passed. Sandra flushed the pills and capsules down the toilet and ate the food she supposedly prepared for Grammy. The old woman lost weight and became weak. Roselyn called in their family doctor who could find nothing amiss, proclaiming, “It’s probably just her time.”
“Are you sure you’re feeding her enough?” Roselyn asked Sandra.
“Of course, I am. She clears her plate every time. But it doesn’t seem to help.”
“And her meds? Does she take them like the doctor–”
“Yes, yes. Every day I make sure. Check the pill bottles if you don’t believe me.”
“She was doing so well. Then you started to…”
“What are you accusing me of, Mom?”
“It seems strange that you spend all this time with her and she’s getting worse.”
“Mom, Grammy is 91. Maybe the doctor is right.”
Roselyn wiped tears from her eyes. “Maybe. But something doesn’t seem right. She’s going down so fast.”
“Maybe she wants it that way.”
“How dare you talk such nonsense. Nobody wants to die quickly. She’s not in any pain. And she’s no trouble to take care of.”
“Easy for you to say.”
“Watch your mouth, young lady. I’d do everything myself if I could. You sure you stay with her in the evenings? I’ve had customers tell me they’ve seen you with that Jimmy.”
“Tell them to mind their own damn business.”
“Mouth, Sandra, watch it.”
“Sorry, but you drive me nuts sometimes.”
“Yes, well start acting like an adult. Stop being so lazy, being so crazy about that punk friend of yours. You’re supposed to take care of Grammy. So DO IT!”
Roselyn left for work. Sandra sneaked a shot of bourbon from her Mom’s supply and went into the old woman’s room to read her poems by Longfellow, Dickinson, and Whitman. She struggled to decide what to do – obey her Mother or satisfy Grammy’s wishes.
“I heard you two arguing,” Grammy murmured when Sandra had stopped reading.
“It’s no big deal. I can handle it.”
“I’m sorry I put you in the middle…but you won’t have to wait long.”
“What do ya mean?”
“I had a dream that I died last night. Everything went black. Then I woke to find myself alone on a rocky shoreline bordered by pine trees and a green ocean. I was naked, young, strong, had my whole life ahead of me. But then I woke again to find myself here.”
“What do you think that means?”
“The Doc is right; my time is near.”
Sandra threw her arms around her and wept. But Grammy pushed her away and wiped the tears from the girl’s cheeks.
At the Clinic, Jennifer took her mid-morning Starbuck’s break, still recovering from the night of drinking and squinting at hand-written diaries. Thoughts of Grammy Stokes pending death saddened her. But then, the memories of Jimmy, her Jimmy, flooded her mind and she glowed in a way she hadn’t for years. She phoned her Mom. Kathleen’s landline rang and rang. A sleepy voice finally answered.
“Mom, it’s Jen. How are you doing?”
“I just woke up. Had a late night with my friend.”
“Is he still there?”
“What a terrible thing to ask your Mother. The answer is no, we didn’t sleep together. Is that why you called?”
“No, no. I was just checking in…”
“Sure, I almost believe you. But you sound different. Has something happened?”
“No, everything is fine. But I did meet someone last night at Harvey’s and…” Jennifer tried to keep the boasting tone from her voice but failed.
“So, who is this…this guy?”
“Yes, Mother, he’s a bona fide male. His name is Jimmy and he’s a professor at Delta College.”
“Finally, you found someone that can read and write.”
“Yeah, well what about your date? Does he have all his teeth?”
Kathleen broke into laughter. “That’s terrible, terrible. At our age, nobody has all their teeth.”
The two women chattered away. It reminded Jennifer of her first dates in high school and her mother’s over-eager questioning the day after. She wanted to know everything about Jimmy, what he looked like, his age, marital status, and what they had done together.
“We talked, Mom. We talked until the bar closed.”
“Unlike you, I’m not gonna ask what happened next. But if you want to tell me…”
“What happened next is we made a date for this Saturday.”
“Are you going out? What are you going to do?”
“Hey Mom, remember, I haven’t dated in years. The hell if I know what we’re going to do.” Jennifer struggled to shift the conversation to something else. “I did some more reading of the diaries. I think I know the story behind that embroidery of yours.”
“Yes, the one hanging on the wall in your dining room.”
“Oh, that. I almost forgot about it.”
“I still need to do some more reading. Maybe after this weekend we can get together…”
“Yes, and we can swap more boyfriend stories.”
“Jeez, Mom, you’re like some teenage girl.”
“Hey, at least I remember how to be one.”
On a Thursday afternoon during the last week of school, Sandra came home late, only to find a white van with a County seal on its doors parked in their driveway. A cold pain gripped her heart and her temples pounded. A man wearing a dark suit and a frown met her at the front door.
“I’m sorry, miss, but your Grandmother has passed.”
“She died this afternoon. Your Mother is in the living room with the Assistant Coroner. You have our condolences.”
Her vision blurred. She glanced into the living room, at figures bathed in silver light, like an overexposed photograph. Sandra entered Grammy’s room. The Coroner’s men had already placed the old woman in a black body bag, leaving its top open. “You have our condolences,” one of them said. They left her alone with the corpse.
Sandra edged forward and stared into the wizened face, the eyes closed, the seamed lips still curled in their characteristic arc. Grammy looked like she slept. Maybe she’s having that dream again. Sandra reached forward and touched her cold cheek. “To be or not to be, that is the question…” skittered through her mind and she bowed her head and wept.
The crew from the mortuary arrived and acted most efficiently, moved the body to their van and drove off, leaving the house all too quiet.
Sandra found her Mother in the kitchen, head down on the table, “Mom…Mom, are you all right?”
“Yeah, that was a stupid question. Sorry. How…how did it happen?”
“When you didn’t come home, I went in to check on her and found Mother just…just gone. I didn’t hear anything beforehand. She never called to me. She was waiting for you, and you were too busy, too damn lazy to be here.”
“Mom, I got held up with graduation practice and–”
“It’s too late for lame excuses, Sandra. Lazy and crazy…that’s how you’ve been these past months. I can see it in your eyes, your impatience with me, your resentment for missing out on your stupid school crap. And that juvenile delinquent, Jimmy…”
“Look, Mom, I know it’s the grief that’s talking…and you’re exhausted. We both loved Grammy…but she was old and…and she wanted to go.”
Roselyn covered her ears with her hands. “Don’t tell me that. I don’t want to hear it. Go on, get out. Get the hell out of here. Go smoke your reefers with your hoodlum friends and play that crap music.” She jumped from her chair, shoved Sandra aside, dashed into the bathroom and slammed the door. Her loud sobs rattled around the house.
Sandra bit her lip and wrapped her arms around herself. She tried to walk, stumbled, and nearly fell. In a daze, she crept upstairs, shoved her purse, some clothes, and what little money she had into an Army surplus knapsack with peace symbols marked all over it, and left the house.
By the next afternoon, she and Jimmy hugged the shoulder of the New Jersey Turnpike, arms and thumbs extended, hitchhiking north toward the Canadian border and magical Montreal beyond.
Kathleen chuckled. “Didn’t you guys schedule the ‘meet the mother’ luncheon a bit early? I though you’re supposed to wait three to six months.”
Jennifer felt herself blush and glanced at Jimmy. He gripped his cocktail glass and flashed a Cheshire cat grin. After a couple of hours at the table, he and her Mother had already formed some kind of weird alliance.
“It’s a new century, Mom. Everything is faster.”
“Oh, honey, not everything.”
Jennifer tried to ignore that crack. “So, Mom, what did you think about Roselyn’s girl, Sandra? Isn’t her story so sad?”
“I’ll say, and thanks for telling it to me. I had never heard exactly how Grammy Stokes died. Roselyn wouldn’t say, and now I know why. And Sandra’s crazy words on that embroidery now make sense…she really wasn’t lazy or crazy.”
Jennifer nodded. “After they left for Montreal, Sandra almost stopped keeping a journal, made just a few sketchy entries.”
“Like what?” Kathleen asked.
“Well, they couldn’t get into Canada because they had so little money and were hitchhiking. So, they decided to thumb their way to San Francisco and join the war protest movement.”
“They were…just kids. How…could they…live?” Jimmy asked between mouthfuls of lemon meringue pie and sips of beer.
“Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll,” Kathleen cracked. “I had high school girlfriends who ran away to Frisco. They never came back.”
“Now that I can understand,” Jimmy said. “The City must have been really hopping.”
Jennifer grasped Jimmy’s hand. “Mom, one thing I don’t understood is how Roselyn got ahold of Sandra’s diary. Did the girl eventually come back, then disappear again?”
Kathleen sighed. “That’s one part of the sad story that I do know. My Aunt never told me what happed to Sandy. But in her junk, I found a packet of letters. There was one from Sandra’s boyfriend, Jimmy.”
“Really, what did it say?”
“In 1970, Sandra died in Seattle after giving birth to a baby boy. The doctors couldn’t stop the hemorrhaging. It was Jimmy who sent the diary back to Roselyn.”
The trio sipped their mid-afternoon drinks in silence.
Jen’s Jimmy scooted forward in his seat. “So, you two have a cousin that you’ve never met?”
“I suppose that’s true,” Kathleen said.
“You know, it’s been a long time since I visited Seattle. Maybe Jen and I can track him down?”
“After almost fifty years, the chances are slim at finding him,” Jennifer said. “Besides, that sounds like a lot of work, and I’m getting lazy in my old age.”
Kathleen stood and removed the framed embroidery from the wall. “Here, you’d better take this – to remind yourself of Sandra’s story. Besides, you’ll never leave Bay City, will you?”
Jennifer glanced at her Jimmy and grinned.