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2004-12-29 | 1:20 a.m.

(CBS/AP) The buzz of grim conversation in the darkened morgue was broken by a man's shriek as the small body was lowered on a bed. "My son, my king!" wailed Venkatesh, hugging the limp shrouded bundle.

Thousands of miles away in Indonesia, farmer Yusya Yusman aimlessly searched the beaches for his two children lost in Sunday's tsunami. "My life is over," he said emotionlessly.

The numbers strain my powers of imagination, but the kids have so many questions. A magnitude-9 earthquake is ... too much, too big. Then a forty-foot wave--would that be as tall as Nana's building? A tsunami traveling at 500 miles per hour is faster than the fastest racecar. Jinx wants to know if it is faster than four racecars. Well, yes. A tsunami traveling at 500 miles per hour could get from San Francisco to our house in two minutes, Duff informs us, as we travel I-80 on our way home from San Francisco.

"Not that a tsunami is coming to our house," I say later, and I notice that Sean, who is five, looks as if he doesn't quite believe me. "Don't worry," I tell him. "I asked Uncle Duff and he said it couldn't happen here. He said we are lucky because we have the Bay."

"Does Uncle Duff know everything?"

"Not everything," I say. "Almost everything." Criminy, Felony, Jinx and Rojo say it with me, authoritatively, and Sean smiles, relaxes. It is good to have someone in your family who knows almost everything.

Iím sorry I havenít written. The kids hog the computer, minding their Neopets. Duff comes home and walks directly upstairs to the computer. Sometimes he goes to the bathroom first. Sometimes he comes down for dinner. Sometimes he comes down for dinner and there is no dinner.

If I do manage to get on, the connection invariably drops within a half hour or so.

It has been raining for two days and water is starting to trickle through the foundation and pool on the basement floor. I keep remembering Christmas presents we forgot to wrap. There is too much chocolate in the house. I sleep like a bear, whether the skies are sunny or dark.

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