Jersey Boys Raises Mathematical Question

Emily and I saw Jersey Boys this weekend. While I agree with the critics who have panned it for various reasons, I myself am generally not that critical at movies. I don’t go to stretch my mind; I go to empty it. Don’t make me think too hard; I’ve had a hard day. Take me to a good science fiction movie or any movie where special effects overwhelm the plot and I’d be asleep in fifteen minutes if Emily didn’t keep nudging me. But comedies I love. And historical movies, especially ones that relate to me, keep me riveted.

I had a historical connection to Jersey Boys. The Four Seasons were one of my favorite groups in high school. But it goes deeper. I was a track man. I ran the two-mile event. It was introduced to Ohio high school track meets in my junior year and no one else wanted to run it so I took it because I wanted to earn a varsity letter. Naturally I set the school record the first time I ran it and I kept the record until someone else ran it. In my two years of running the two-mile, I won four races, two each year. Interestingly both years I had back-to-back victories. To pace myself I chose a favorite song and sung it to myself the entire race, picking up the speed or lowering the speed as my legs and endurance dictated. One year my song was the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B”; the other year (and for the life of me I can’t remember which year was which song) was the Four Seasons’ “Opus 17.”

So I wanted to enjoy Jersey Boys. I had every intention of loving it. If I found any entertainment at all in my two hours at the movie I was going to be satisfied. And I was:

  • Learning about the dissension within the group and Frankie’s Jersey loyalty (though the Joe Pesci character was dreadfully undeveloped);
  • Discovering that Bob Crewe was bisexual (though his relationship to the group members and his influence on their success was left unexplored; imagine Crewe revealing that his “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” was written to his gay lover);
  • Witnessing the anger and jealousy of Frankie’s wife as she threw him out of the house in front of their three daughters (though I didn’t understand how it could follow so closely a scene where the other three group members are partying and Frankie is at home with his wife and family);
  • Being shocked at the death of Frankie’s daughter (though that segment was thrown in out of nowhere and her talent was merely told to the audience in the words of a proud father but never shown to us [as the writers’ cliché says, “Show; don’t tell]).

But the movie left me with a bigger question, and it had nothing to do with the movie. We know that Buddy Holly was not in the Crickets, nor was Freddy in the Dreamers. The Pacemakers may just now be growing into their name as members enter their seventh and eighth decades but Gerry was not one of them. Herman (Peter Noone) may have been the leader of Herman’s Hermits or Herman and the Hermits but in either case he was not one of them. Dave Clark, however, was one of the Dave Clark 5; if not, they’d have been Dave Clark and the Dave Clark 4.

From early on in their history the Jersey Boys were known as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. If that name was mathematically correct, shouldn’t the band have been a quintet instead of a quartet? Or, if they wanted to stick with four members, shouldn’t it have been Frankie Valli and the Other Three Seasons? And if that was the case, which seasons were they and which one was Frankie?

Someone isn’t telling us the whole story. Will we find out in the sequel?


Showing Your Feelings about Your Partner’s Breast Cancer: Timing Is Everything

You just found out that your partner has breast cancer. Do you cry in front of her to show that you are caring and sensitive, or do you hold back your natural tears to show that you are her rock? There’s a thin line between being strong, which is good, and being unfeeling, which is bad. And sometimes timing is everything.

When Emily learned that she had breast cancer, she was at work. Stunned, she called me to share the bad news. I told her I would bring her home.

On my way to pick her up, I thought about what I had just learned and I imagined possible outcomes. I was alternately terrified and calm. I wondered how I should react when I saw her. Should I be strong and show no fear so that she could see I was her protector? Or should I break down sobbing in her arms because I was scared of losing her? I rationalized that I had to keep my cool because I had to drive us home.

As I pulled into the parking lot, Kathie, our friend, who had been waiting in the lobby, came out to meet me. She climbed into the front seat and asked right away, “How are you feeling?”

Her question surprised me; I was waiting to hear how Emily was doing. I started to cry softly, not difficult if I didn’t say a lot.

I answered Kathie’s question in sentence fragments. But I dutifully kept my cool. “Are you ready to go in?” Kathie asked. I held back my tears, wiped my eyes, and nodded that I was ready.

Emily was by now deep in shock; when she saw me she began crying again. I let myself cry in our embrace but forced myself to remain composed.

Later that evening, while Emily was asleep, I sat downstairs at my computer and cried freely. At the time, it was the right decision.

Six weeks later, by now 12 days after Emily’s first chemotherapy treatment, I lost my job. Emily was physically and emotionally fragile. In addition, she’s the one in our partnership who traditionally has handled the bill paying so when money is tight she’s the first to feel the stress.

I didn’t tell her for three weeks because I didn’t want to add to her stress. In retrospect, I’m glad I waited as I did. But holding on to that secret did little to enhance my own emotional well-being.

Only after a trip together to our nutritional oncologist, where I witnessed a new level of strength and confidence on Emily’s part, was I willing to take a chance and tell her. I steeled myself to the possibility that she would panic that we were going to lose the house, and I prepared to condemn myself for hindering her progress by being so self-centered.

To my surprise, she was calm, confident, resigned, spiritual. “The worst that’ll happen is we lose the house, we move to an apartment, and I support us on my salary,” she said, adding, “All that matters is that I’m alive.”

Once she knew, I could begin to work out a job-hunting strategy with her in the support role. The role reversal was empowering to us both.

If such open communication is more than you’ve ever been able to handle by yourself, know that a support network already is in place in your hospital and community. Social workers, psychiatrists, support groups, religious leaders, interested individuals, and, of course, your surgeons and their assistants are there for you. Visit them with your partner. They may not know you need help until you ask for it.

So ask for it.

(This entry was excerpted from my e-book Your Partner Has Breast Cancer: 21 Ways to Keep Sane as a Support Person on Your Journey from Victim to Survivor. It may be purchased at or Please feel free to provide a review, good or bad. Print version coming soon. Thanks to for inviting me to post this excerpt on their site.)