Saturday, December 29, 2012

What dreams become.

I have
no knowledge of this moment.
I can only guess the anticipation
the dream
you dreamt in this instant.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Early on...

Early on
you noticed how moods
when we walk together
from school,
picking acorns and walnuts
bird feathers and
making our way home
on a sunny afternoon
you telling me that kindergarten
is a lot of busy work.

I smiled then
knowing full well
that teachers work hard to
make things flow
and keep boys
in their seats
like coaches
try to keep little boys
focused on
chasing the ball
and not picking
daisies on the soccer field.

with sweat and pain
you preferred pizza for a snack
instead of oranges and granola
soccer, basketball, baseball
tennis, golf, snowboarding, biking
with teams
or with boys in the neighborhood
in the pool
off the steep hills around us
at Shoup Park
chasing balls
each other
climbing trees
and mountains.

dressed up
with joyful noises
studying, working,
exploring how
to become
less frustrated
by break-downs
heavy demands
how to know
all there is
to know
holding petals
of a daisy
or watching the flight
of a hummingbird.

And you're still
the unknown
without me
knowing your whereabouts.

At Christmas, though, I expect you sharing with me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

After a cool swim.

(Brian fell in cold waters helping Butters find a way back to shore from a reedy lake.)

It was a cool afternoon in April, 1991. Brian and his dad were at the baseball field by Pierce College for practice. I arrived late from work and sat in the stands waiting for them to finish practice. At break time, he came over to say hi and asked about a box I was holding.
"A present for you."
" Is it a baseball mitt?"
"Is it a new pair of sneakers?"
His dad called the boys for final instructions before releasing them to their parents, and right then I told Brian I had brought him a new puppy for his 11th birthday. He opened the box, grabbed the dog and ran back to the field screaming at his teammates to wait. And there, on the field, the boys all sat around and admired the new puppy that looked more bear than dog.

When we got home, the puppy, named Wooley on that field, became Brian's constant companion. 
When we retired in 2002, Brian was still in college. Wooley went to live with him until we were settled in Oregon.  

Wooley remained with Brian until she died of cancer. Putting her to sleep was the toughest thing he ever had to do. 

After he bought his house in July 2009, he acquired Buttercup, (Butters). 


Sunday, November 25, 2012

In all the little places

In that
strip of freeway
around the foothills of Chatsworth
back from collecting your wages
from some client
who stiffed you,
you didn't notice
how your foot
handled your anger
and got home
with your
first speeding ticket.

You learned how everything becomes
shiny again when rubbed with pride
at your first job at Fallbrook Theaters
everyone's messes
coming home
after my bedtime
riding a bike
you purchased with
the first month's wages.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Another Philadelphia Story.

Brian and Janet had their lives mapped out, time to finish school for Janet, time for saving and improving the house for Brian; then, anticipate the stars to align around the year 2013 when the wedding had been planned right here at the lake.

Brian has never been happier.

For the few days that we had all together we got to know a whole lot about their courtship, his flying to Philadelphia to propose, their visit up to Oregon to introduce Janet to us, visiting his sister in Eugene, all the time sharing all the many activities they had planned together, including a possible business venture utilizing their talents and skills.

They were mapping their future world, one day at a time, one experience at a time, connecting with families, talking about what was important.

We'll be visiting Southern California soon, for the first time since the Memorial. I will be thinking about them this way; I'll be seeing his happy face all around the old hangouts.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Changing lights and other useful things...

Brian was definitely a hands-on, get it done kind of guy attacking a mechanical or electronic problem with the simplest of solutions first.

Whenever something needed fixing around the house, ever since he was a youngster, he jumped in with tools he gathered from his room. He had always been curious about how things worked and had tools everywhere, for he knew any minute he might need to fix something.

On one of his birthdays, I bought him a book entitled How Things Work, (or something like it!), that became a favorite of his for years.

Ever since we moved up here, and our health and physical abilities have begun to slow way down, a visit from Brian would guarantee that those burned lights got changed, the pump drained and turned off, the garden tilled, the batch of debris accumulating on the roof or in the garden got cleared up, or transported to the dump, and any little appliance that needed fine tuning was fixed and oiled and put back to good use.

Here he is in his front yard, digging and planning a native garden that would provide flowers and seed for wildlife, as  well as great herbs for the many dishes he enjoyed cooking.
On our last visit, I suggested he add more oregano and basil.

Friday, October 5, 2012

An ever-present-ever-aching feeling.

I've finally had a dream about Brian. He was a little boy, at a piano recital, a replica of a picture we have of him around seven or eight. Throughout the dream, I kept thinking, Oh good, I'm finally dreaming of Brian, he's with me, he's not gone.

My biggest fear is that if I stop thinking of him, he'll fade away. He will truly be gone.

Funny what the mind does to capture and hold on.
It knows that memory fades, like being in a car, on a road moving away, and as you move forward, everyone else is left behind. They exist; but they are not in your focus. And that focus becomes less and less sharp with age.

Now, I'm sorry I don't have more pictures, or videos or more artifacts of his life.

I was cleaning the cat dish yesterday, (Newkie, his cat, moved with us to Port Orford), and a sudden ache passed through me. I had used the dish for over a year, and never thought about it one way or another. I was thoroughly scrubbing that dish, in and out and around and through, when a thought stopped me in my tracks:   I had just removed the last of Brian's fingerprints;  his DNA had now been destroyed forever.

This is just the  ever-present ache that comes over me suddenly, and I don't have to go out of my way, on a daily basis to experience it. It comes to me when I least expect it, watching a movie, seeing someone, driving down the road, fixing a meal.

His friend Michael Kohan put together a CD of Brian's favorite music.
I've not played it yet. I will cry and rejoice as I listen to it. And that is a most precious state of affairs.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

The luck that follows us.

(Brian and his college friend Kalen Williams, no relation. They had known each other ever since college, at U.C. Riverside.)

Brian seemed to be surrounded by good luck and good people all his life.

I was thirty eight, an old mom when I had Brian.  We had returned to California after our graduate school days in Florida, and were settling back into a normal routine. I felt old and discouraged at how difficult everything had been, finishing school, finding a place, finding a job. I had just heard about my pregnancy when my mother came to visit me from Italy.  What a great help Mom was, with the baby, with the house, with the other children.  Right after Brian was born, in April, I found out that my work status might be jeopardized  because I could not finish the current year, and to become permanent I would have to work an additional year.

 The teaching job at Belvedere Junior High started out as temporary and was to become permanent after three years, with all the rights that went with that status.

As luck would have it, when I explained to the administration at Belvedere that I didn't want to leave my newborn yet, they arranged for me to bring Brian (and Mom) to school, moving me to a room across from the teachers' lounge where Mom and Brian could hang out, and I was able to nurse him every few hours and have him near me for those ten days! It was quite a precedent!

Mom remained with us for over a year. Brian may not have had a good memory of her, but he had no problems adjusting to other sitters after that. He had a sunny disposition and a playful nature about him, no matter who was around. Having a grandmother in your first year is a stroke of luck, and we were all most thankful for that.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I didn't see it coming.

I expected a premonition, the way storms announce themselves a few days ahead of their visit. If something is going to happen to us, to any of us, I would know, I could prevent it, I thought. I could always  sense a storm coming, Mother's letters, Father's moods.  If you had not called for a while, I sensed something was going on in your life, and I knew I could pull the issues out of you.

But I had no premonition of your last moments. No premonition and no worries about your life.
You were smart; polite.  Most importantly, you liked people; you got along with everyone.

Though you were raised in an affluent neighborhood, full of professionals, artists and artisans, your sense of who you were was not that of a privileged child. You were a hands-on problem solver, an inventor, interested in lots of things, open to possibilities, not afraid to meet people who were not like you, not afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.

When you were eleven you spend a month visiting with your uncle Luigi in Italy. You took a list of possible phrases with you and looked forward to the adventure of learning new things. You returned speaking Italian! How did you do it?

Your father saw himself in you. You were slim as he used to be at your age; you were smart and curious and gravitated toward the hard stuff. You reminded him of himself in so many ways.
Your thriftiness, pragmatism, helpful ways reminded me of my own childhood.

I had met so many children for whom I feared the worst future.
I only saw loving and exciting moments in your future.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Picture this.

Brian didn't talk much about his girlfriends, or any other people he knew. He had an organic philosophy of life, one that allows for growth and change, and finding one's way in the world. He was always open to possibilities, to make friends, make discoveries.

After he met Janet, he began to tell us what a wonderful girl he had met.
When he brought her up to meet us in 2010, we knew he was smitten with her and he was a changed man.

And so, as the romance developed, I began to see other aspects of his philosophy of life. He became a planner and a dreamer. Every purchase, every step he took was now most important to his ultimate goal to marry, have children, support the family unit.

A few weeks before his death he and Janet had visited us at the lake and talked about having the wedding there. They were also planning to upgrade the house in Long Beach he had purchased a couple of years earlier, improve the garden so they could have all their friends for a reception after they married.  Picture a small wedding at the lake, with the two families and a couple of friends, then, a few weeks later, a reception for all their friends.  I had no idea how many friends they had!
I had no idea that hundreds of people would gather one last time to make that garden dream come true!

Now, the wedding date had not been set yet. Janet was in school (is in school).  He had promised her family that they would wait.  In the meantime, he and Janet planned an upgrade of the garden and he borrowed his father's big rototiller to get started in the back garden.  The two of them had already renovated the front garden, and I have pictures of the two of them doing the hard work of digging and planting.

That first garden they planted together cemented their friendships.
That last garden honored his memory and dreams beautifully.

Thanks to all his friends who made that dream come true. And many, many thanks to Janet, for believing in him, for loving him, for honoring his memory so beautifully.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

You saw what I didn't see.

I kept making lists for you, bought books about how to do this and that. I was not finished with mothering.

Yet, you were always surprising me with stuff you had figured on your own.

You had figured out how schooling worked early in kindergarten:

"If you don't get in line you will not get a snack!"
"The teachers get tired, so they make you lie down."
"When you finish one paper, they give you another and another."
"Get the work done fast so you can play more."

You shone when you were in charge of your own work:

Decathlon in high school.
Running your computer set-up and repair company in junior high.
Graduate work in the lab at Riverside.
Creative projects at L3.

You read widely, found time to be with friends, throw a BBQ, go camping, play various sports, and volunteer for Habitat. You were thrifty with your resources, shunning labels and false signs of wealth.

You had managed to buy a house on your own, repair your own car.
You managed to figure out how to live a rewarding life while there was still much life ahead.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A year, a month, two weeks later...

(Newkie enjoying the warmth of the sun)

A few years ago a man and his wife moved down the street. He took walks, spent time pruning his trees, spoke to anyone who walked by. She never came out of her house. What we knew of her was through the stories the husband told us.

They had lost a grown daughter to cancer a few years back, the husband began. The woman was depressed, hardly left the house, and now, three years later, and three houses later, things had not changed. Will she see a therapist, I asked. No. She won't talk to anybody. She is inconsolable!

The couple moved a year later, to another house, another attempt to put her loss behind.

I knew what it felt like to lose a parent; I knew that at times, thinking about my parents caused me great distress. After I retired and began to write my memoir, the loss of my parents weighed heavily in those reminiscences, and I cried for days while writing one simple chapter.

After we lost Brian I kept reminding myself to stay sane; to look forward to remembering all that he was, all the lovely memories we had of him, and not to drown in sorrow. I did not want to become the woman in that house, a shadow in her own life.

We have been consciously searching for new things to do-albeit the fact that Hubby's health was compromised and he was in and out of hospitals for months. We planned a garden renewal; a living room upgrade; a new class in fiddle playing. We tried to stay active, took our regular walks, attended regular meetings.

Yet, each week, and each month we marked the date and day of his death. Sunday mornings will never return to being leisure days for us. Sundays are days of mourning. It was a Sunday morning when Brian was carried to a friend's house after he was hit in the head by an angry young man, after he fell and lost consciousness, and he was put to bed by his friends, who thought that because they heard him snore he must be o.k.

I think of how all who knew him must still feel.

There isn't a day when my husband and I don't talk about him.
There isn't a movie or a book, or a television program when I don't see something/someone that reminds me of him.  When I heard Paul Ryan speak on television, there was something of Brian in that pose, that smile, that resolve. (I happen not to agree with Ryan's politics!)

I was looking forward to more grandchildren.
I was looking forward to many more visits and conversations.
I was looking forward.

Some events mark us for a while.
Some change us forever.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Like a folded map...

I downloaded this picture from a bunch sent to me. I recognize the rock in the water: this is Agate beach, the same view I see  across the lake where we live in Port Orford. I'm assuming Janet took it when the two of them visited during the 4th of July weekend in 2011.

Brian changed a whole lot those last years, looked more manly, acted more mature in so many ways.
Yet, when I begin to think of him, my mind skips around, through the years.
It is like having a folded map, and moving it around, I get to review the different parts of his journey.

And that's what it feels like this reminiscing: the journey is over for Brian, and I have both the beginnings and the end, thirty-one years where the little boy who took his first camping trip with his big brother and fell in love with the outdoors, continued to enjoy nature every chance he had.

I still have a list a things we were going to do together:
1. take a trip to Italy together
2. go on fishing trips
3. revisit Montana where his father's family originated

He and I built a garden together in Woodland Hills, after the house we lived in was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. He enjoyed helping me, doing the tasks I could not do by myself, helping me with setting rocks in various locations, building a brick patio, a pond for his fish and turtles, and designing and constructing the irrigation lines.

He chose the statuary: an Italian inspired young boy with a bird in his hand, to decorate the area with orange and lemon bushes.

Just fourteen when the earthquake hit, he visited the construction zone everyday before and after school by himself, to feed his cat that didn't adjust to moving. In the evening, we would all return to the site, with a picnic, to talk to the contractor. He was a sponge the entire time, asking questions, noticing details.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On Sundays, I know you'll call.

On Sundays
you called.
I'd ask you how your week was; what you ate; what was bothering you.
You shared easily
Indulging me.

Then, on the phone with your father
you talked and talked
and indulged him too.

I still thought of you as my baby.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It was a Sunday evening.

The caller identified himself as the sheriff from the  Brookings 911. The time was 5:30 p.m on Sunday, July 17, 2011.

Are you Rosaria Williams? 
We need to talk to you. 
What is this about? Can't you tell me on the phone?
Do you still live on Circle Drive?
I never lived on Circle Drive. You must have the wrong Rosaria Williams.
Your birthdate is...
We need to talk to you. We'll be there in a half hour with the local police car.

I immediately thought someone had been impersonating me, had committed some crime or other, and the police was coming over to take me to jail. Ken, I said, as I changed and put shoes on, Ken, follow us to the county jail and bail me out.

Within fifteen minutes the local police was in our driveway. Officer Rose was alone. He always joked with us on the streets of Port Orford, in his patrol car, as Ken and I took our daily walks.
He asked if my husband was home. I called for Ken to join us in the living room.

Sit down, were his first words.
What is it? I still thought he had a warrant and was trying to be friendly before he  took me away.
I have bad news. Your son Brian was found dead this morning.
You must have the wrong person.
Brian Williams, from Fullerton.
He must be some other Brian Williams. My son lives in Long Beach.
I want you to talk to detective Malone from the Fullerton Police Department. He can provide you with details. Here is his number.

Ken called the Fullerton Police Department. His face was somber and tense. He listened for a while, and then took down some names and numbers. He looked at me and nodded.

It must be a mistake. How tall is this person? Ask them that. Ask how much he weighs! I was now shouting at Ken, angry at him for taking the other's words as facts. No way, I kept saying. No way. He'd be with Janet, with other friends. Who was he with? What happened?

Ken kept talking on the phone. I kept looking at him and shaking my head.

When the call ended, Ken shared these facts:

Brian was at a party next door to Kalen's brother's apartment. After the party, a neighbor got angry, followed Brian out the door and hit him hard, causing him to land flat on the pavement. The police thought there had been a fight. Kalen and his brother took him home to sleep. The next morning, Brian couldn't be roused, and the boys called 911.

We could have left for Long Beach the same night, but Ken needed refills on his meds, and we waited for the next morning before deciding how to travel.
We called our other children.
We walked to our neighbor to alert her of our situation.
We left messages cancelling appointments coming up.
We cleaned house.
We left messages at the Coroner's office to learn more.
We packed.

The next day we drove our SUV south, to gather Brian's animals and things, and to plan for his funeral. I was on the phone the entire trip, talking to my children, to Janet, police, coroner, funeral arrangements.

By the time we arrived in Long Beach we were exhausted. Neighbors met us at the door.

The place was clean; the animals well cared; the refrigerator and freezer totally stocked, thanks to Janet. She had a detailed design of the Memorial when she joined us a few hours later. We were united on this goal, as people began to show up that same evening to talk about Brian,  to express their sympathies.

For the next three weeks, our energies went to support the work of the many volunteers organized by Janet, to order materials and tools, to select plants, to meet with police, funeral personnel, Brian's work,  to share meals with as many people as remained late in the evenings after it was too dark to work.

Johnny, the neighbor boy who kept walking Butters for us, kept showing up with more tools, more materials that were needed. He and his family were there for us every step of the way. Neighbors put up with a lot of noise; with people coming and going; with cars lined up all over the place; with dump trucks being delivered empty and picked up full; with materials being delivered.

After the funeral and memorial, after the house was emptied of furniture and goods, after Butters was adopted, after the garden was completed, after the last dump truck was filled, Ken and I turned the house key to the bank that held the mortgage, packed a few things, and with Newkie whining in her cage, we deposited the probate materials with our son Scott who would later deliver them to the attorney, and  headed back home,  north to Oregon, to a quiet time to mourn.

This morning, as usual, we talked about Brian. We'll be talking about him until we can't talk anymore.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A year ago...

Brian and Janet on the deck in Port Orford, July 4th weekend, 2011.
Butters and Walrus 
just below this deck.
You two enjoying the scene.

Walrus watching Butters.

Butters watching Walrus.

We had just had our Fourth of July lunch, after the parade:
BBQ ribs, Boston baked beans, fried artichokes, green salad,
hummus, pizza bites, corn on the cob.
You and Janet
Pia and Jason
Dad and I 
Walrus and Butters.

We celebrated our many blessings together that week:
Your Dad's and my 45th Anniversary;
Your engagement to Janet the previous spring;
Dad's upcoming birthday;
and our nation's birthday.

You and Janet had just returned from our little town's parade, llamas' and tractors' and horses' and a  musicians'  parade. In the afternoon, you thought of joining the Jerry cans race, or the golf on the beach, or the square dancing in the moonlight. You had made plans to join Claire Davis, Janet's school friend, to watch the Fireworks Celebration at Battlerock Park.

It all felt like a golden time, with all of you, (minus your brother and his family), a family reunion of sorts I could look forward to every year. We had never had a proper reunion, with all our relatives, close and far.
We talked about saving the 4th of July to spend together.
 Every year.

 Before you two drove back to Southern Cal., you took apart the big monster rototiller that had been too big for us to bring down to Long Beach the previous winter in our SUV. You packed it in pieces, and stuffed it in the trunk of your BMW, knowing what you wanted to do to that yard of yours,  you and Janet building dreams, to and from Oregon.

After your sudden death, we could have used many rototillers. Friends and colleagues spent days and days trimming trees, removing debris and old sheds, cutting up  soil, adding amendments, turning the soil over until the place was ready for new plantings.
A trellis and  boardwalk were erected, (thanks to Janet's father and brother who did all the construction work,)  and loving messages  were inscribed on the back of each plank, each step from the house to the trellis, all written in silence and in prayer on the day of your memorial.

People you had known in elementary, high school and  college,  friends I had not seen in decades, dozens of new people I never met before, people you worked with, neighbors and friends of Janet, parents of friends, people I worked with and knew about you,  everyone came to say goodbye in a personal way, by penning their farewell message, by building the garden, donating money for resources and special plants, doing all they could do in your memory.
Even Butters pawed her message, on the last board, before it was nailed down.

The house  in Long Beach is going up  for sale this month.
The new owners will never know the dreams contained in that space, the love shared under those trees,  the generous outpouring of resources and labor that went  to create a lasting tribute to your generous and loving soul.

Your Dad and I, your brother and sister, relatives and friends who came from everywhere heard about the wonderful adult you had become, a thoughtful guy who was always willing to lend a hand.

We will gather every July, son, in your memory, in your honor.
You will always shine brightly in our firmament.
Much love.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pet lover.

If the lake wasn't icy, you'd swim in it, as vigorously as Butters did.
This particular day you were trying to tell Butters how to manage the reeds around the dock. She jumped in and couldn't get herself out. You bent down, grabbed her and pulled her up.

You challenged Butters to run, swim, never give up.

You had quite a challenge getting Newkie and Butters to share space. You took great care of them, making sure they saw the vet regularly, and feeding them appropriately. They were lucky pets.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dear Brian

June 2, 2012.
Dear Brian,
I have to agree with all religious people: believing in an after life is most comforting!
I wish that it were numbing the pain too. Even with that belief,  dealing with loss is the toughest thing I have ever experienced.

All I think about is that I will never see you again.

At your memorial, I chose the poem with the refrain, "let me go" to be printed and distributed. I had nothing else. No, I don't want to let you go. I want to talk about you to anyone who will listen. The trouble is that if I start talking, I can't stop.

I bleed.

Nothing I can do will bring you back.
Nothing anyone can do.

Your passing is a tsunami of uncontrolled destruction.
I feel waves and waves of debris floating ashore, when I least expect.

I'm remembering last July 4th weekend, the last time I saw you: Mom, can we have the wedding here at the Lake? Can we have the seed of the Siberian poppies you're growing? Can we take a cutting of the Cecil B. rose?  I will convert the garage, and add a sunroom with a lap pool, so..."

You were young, full of hope, with a generous heart.

I cannot let you go.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Under the weight of sorrow.

Brian died ten months ago. Yesterday, Mother's Day, I expected a call from him that never came.

This is how I feel when I write about Brian. There is life, under life to discover and reveal. Yet, I scratch the surface and stop. Something weighs me down. I don't know the details of his death; I do not know who knows the details.

Thank you for following this blog.
I do not know if and when I can return. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

He was building a life.

Brian made solo trips to Oregon whenever he could. He'd call us Friday morning, and arrive in Eureka by noon. We picked him up, had lunch and then he drove us home.  The next day, he and I would comb the beaches, catch up with our lives. Whatever was on our minds, we had an opportunity to walk and talk and get those thoughts out.  By Monday, he was gone again.

We took yearly trip to Southern California, usually during winter months, to escape the rains. We spent a few days at a local motel, taking turns meeting with Scott and his family, and with Brian, attempting to get them all together whenever possible.  Here, we had just arrived late one afternoon. Brian was living in Palos Verdes then, before he bought the house,  just a hill away from this mall.

Making faces: from left to right.
Front row: Scott, Jasmine, Thizar Williams
Back row: Brian, Ken
Location: South Bay, Torrance.

Ken and I had just arrived from Oregon, and the family met us at this place because Brian was working at L3, just a few miles away, and Scott's residence  even closer. Ken and I were already giddy with all that sunshine. Though cool for Southern California, the temperatures were just right for us.

We returned a few months later, to inspect the house he was about to purchase, and this time we had my old car, a beat up Saturn he wanted to borrow for a few months. I was happy to deliver the car, though I wondered that it would make it all the way down without a hitch.  The car had been sitting in my garage, and I'm sure had major hiccups and had become a nest for some wandering critter during the cold months.  We were prepared to help him with the down payment too; but, he had worked that out too.  He was taking advantage of a government program  and borrowing from his retirement funds. The only thing he needed was a car for emergency trips now and then. He was selling his brand new Acura sports car to cut down a $500 monthly expense, and wanted to have a great credit score when he applied for the mortgage loan.

In late June, we drove down, left the car with him, inspected the Long Beach residence he was about to purchase, consulted with him on the expenses he would incur with this property, and wished him good luck.

That year, at Thanksgiving, I helped him make a turkey dinner for all of us down in Long Beach. His house was bare-boned, but he was most proud of a new puppy, Buttercup, that had joined his household.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dancing in the streets.

(Dancing on the Willamette Bridge in Eugene, Oregon, with Janet Lee, 2010)

Brian loved music, all kinds, all instruments, all vocals, all beats. Through a series of life experiences he was introduced to dance, theater, piano, guitar, partly because as a young child he came along whenever his sister Pia performed or attended practices, partly because he was constantly improvising with whatever instrument he could get his hands on.

(He never missed any performances of the Comforters! (Pia and Jason)

 He was eclectic by nature, and in his possession, after the memorial, we found many tapes and recordings, including old LP's he had "borrowed" from his big brother Scott, who had in turn salvaged them when the family was forced to abandon our residence after the Northridge Earthquake of 1994.

Soon after that, he inherited a very special guitar, a gift from a friend of his father when he heard that the boy was interested in jazz. This friend was a nephew of legendary Billy Strayhorn. This connection, The A Train piece, the Duke Ellington connection, all became motivation for Brian to learn the instrument, jam with friends.

I don't know when he began to dance. I do know that he loved all forms of music, and dancing on the street, on a moonlit night would fit his idea of jamming.

After college, as he moved around, he took few things with him, his cat Newkie,  his guitars and recordings, his computer, his books,  a frying pan and cookbooks from our pre-earthquake house in Woodland Hills, the one we made our pasta sauce in, and all the cards and letters I had sent him.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Brian.

You were the tallest one in the family,
and proud of it!
Every birthday was a challenge 
to see where you landed 
on the foot scale.
You topped me at age twelve,
your sister at fourteen, I think.
When you topped your father and brother 
you celebrated in grand style.
But this tree looked down on you
and it too stopped having birthdays.
Another event in a tragic season.

Changes, everywhere, all the time
among stars
and grains of sand,
forever imbedding
in our loved ones' hearts.

Happy Birthday, Son.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Loved Challenges.

Christmas, 2003, Port Orford.  Brian and Jasmine, his niece, on the dock, at Garrison Lake.

The entire family  was together that Christmas, some in sleeping bags, some on couches. The small cottage of three bedrooms was bursting at the seams.  The weather was cool and wet, typical December,  and these two pictures were taken on an occasional break from the rain.

What I remember most about that Christmas was how Brian and Jasmine spent hours trying to fish in the lake, cold and wet and focused.I have a whole roll of film showing the two of them on that dock. Jasmine and Brian casting and casting and hoping.
They didn't catch any fish on that occasion.

We did, however, have fish for dinner: Cioppino with crab and rockfish and shrimp we purchased from Tony's Crab Shack in Bandon.

During the same week, we experienced our first Port Orford storm, hurricane winds that knocked the power out for a few hours and rattled our nerves. Brian kept the fire going in the fireplace, hauling wood from a dark garage, helping with a make-shift breakfast that included coffee in an old-fashioned metal ware pot.

He loved these challenges!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Always ready for outdoor fun.

We went camping a few times as a family. Brian took to it like a fish to water. As a youngster he went to a camp in Catalina and fell in love with it. He returned to it as an adult, with different friends.

Here, I believe, there were three of more people hiking up to the campsite in Catalina.
Lots of hiking.
He was not averse to roughing it all the way to the opposite side of the island.

Some of you who camped with him can add details to this post.
I'm just proud of how resourceful and self sufficient he was. This last Easter holiday, he would have camped here, his dog with him, and as many friends as could make it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Playful by nature.

Here he is playing the famous Roof Ball he co-invented. I recognize Sean Miller in this photo.

Since he was the baby in the family, seven years younger than his sister Pia, and thirteen years younger than his brother J. Scott, he was babysat by his two siblings, and when either one  babysat someone else, Brian would tag along.

He was born when I was 38, a miracle baby for sure. From day one, his sister saw him as her doll, read to him, trained him to wait for Santa and the Easter Bunny until the house/experience was ready for his discovery.

His brother babysat two neighbor boys bigger than Brian. They were all fearless, jumping into the pool in a trashcan to see how long they could last; sliding down the steep hill behind the house on make-shift sliders, tearing up the ivy, tearing up their clothes, but always having a grand old time.  The four of them spent time building machines and contraptions like water rockets and other forms of propelled instruments, and shot them in the hills of Shoup Park across the street from us in Woodland Hills.

We could trace Brian's adventure mishaps on his body: a big gash on his leg from dropping on the glass window on the day the house in Covina caught fire and the three of them, Scott, Pia and Brian had to find refuge at the neighbors, and then watch firefighters put out a fire that started up as a dry palm bursting into flames.

A nick on the side of his temple was from jumping and landing too close to the coffee table; another wound  from coming too close to a golf club when he was taking golf lessons one summer. At a baseball game, a ball hit his front teeth,  and he bit hard and continued the game and told nobody how hard he was hit until the game was over.  He had his fair share of emergency runs to the hospital.

The most terrifying stint for the rest of the family was the time, when he was still in diapers, when he began to have convulsions. I put a wooden spoon across his mouth and gathered him on my lap until the convulsions stopped.  Then, with everyone in the car, I drove all the way from Covina to Hollywood Kaiser Hospital, to get him checked up. The tests were awful, and we were most fearful for him.  The doctors didn't find any problems, but told us to watch him; and to hope he'd outgrow the convulsions. He did and grew strong and wiry and fully of energy.

He was the baby; but he had to learn and do more things than other children his age. He inherited many things from his big brother, including a sense of adventure and a love for making games out of things, using whatever computer hardware and software they could scrounge, take apart and re-purpose.

Brian started a computer set-up and repair business when he was in junior high, He printed business cards and flyers and distributed them at local malls. At that time, computers were not so user-friendly, and one had to get help after purchasing a computer, just getting it home and booted and ready to start. From his brother, he learned a whole lot about programming and gaming and repairing. Brian's business did very well; he was proud of the money he was making; and proud of the respect he was getting from everyone.

(On another note: whenever he used my computer, he would improve it, add stuff, clean stuff, reconfigure it to be friendlier....)

His curiosity was boundless.

I remember a day I didn't have to work. He was in kindergarten, and I surprised him when I picked him up at noon and walked home with him.

The walk was just over a mile. We found all kinds of fascinating things, walnuts and mushrooms and lichen. We talked about co-dependence; how nuts feed squirrels; how hawks feed on mice; how fallen birds get buried and disposed of so fast by some other animal.  By the time we got home we had a handful of stuff we collected and talked about.  Over the weekend,  we had expended our conversation, and went shopping to make a universe in a bottle, a self-sufficient aquarium with snails, fish and kelp.

He kept that universe thriving for ages, while he messed with the ratio -snail-fish-kelp- in different bottles, hoping he'd find a better formula.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A talker,a tinkerer, a writer.


I found his first journal, at age seven. He talks about his best friend, Michael Kohan. Together we have fun, he writes on the 5th of November, 1987. For a second grader, he knew a great deal about writing conventions. He wrote clearly about his friendships,  how he spent his time, how he made up  games.

He talks about his emotions, the fact that they were reading Charlotte's Web in school, the disappointments he felt when another friend spent more time with someone else.

He loved to tinker, to take things apart, to see how everything worked.
When he was still a toddler, he unhinged a cupboard door with just a butter knife and then, spent hours  putting it back together, insisting he could do it by himself.Of course, we encouraged him, bought him model cars to assemble and race, and allowed him to build small engines for more advanced models. For his fifth grade science project, he built a road with magnets, and cars moved with a specified command without the aid of the driver!

In the sixth grade, during his winter break of six weeks from Parkman Middle School, I enrolled him at Almondale Middle School, in the Antelope Valley, where I was principal. He took a wood shop class he came to love, in spite of not liking the teacher.  (He had no time in his schedule at Parkman to take any shop classes, even if they offered them.)

We woke up at 5:00 and drove the 63 miles to the Antelope Valley to be at work at 7:00. We returned home after 7:00 most nights. We spent hours and hours talking.  He saw the entire shift as an adventure; looked forward to the snow storms I had promised he'd encounter during that winter. He saw the work I did, the other side of teaching. That was the year he began to have more respect for the work teachers do.

His class work improved after that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A man at the top of the game.

Brian, Janet and Butters,  in Port Orford, July  2011.

Brian was at the top of his game. He had a great job, doing what he loved doing, applying science to solve problems, he and Janet had been engaged for a few months, and they were beginning to plan summer wedding at the lake.

On that Fourth of July weekend, they enjoyed the dunes, the sandy shores, and this dock at Lake Garrison where Butters would jump in these frigid waters and fetch a stick or a ball, sometimes getting stuck in the reeds, but always eager to  play the game over and over again.

The previous summer, they had gone on the Rogue Rapids, spending the day soaking up the sun, the river, the excitement of the Rogue.

Back in Long Beach, he found time to do it all, ride a bike, work in his yard, repair the car, even volunteer with Habitat for Humanity on weekends.  He had made some tough choices when he sold his brand new Acura sports car to finance a home. He made a great life for himself, through self-sufficiency, solid work habits, smart budgeting, and most importantly, by choosing an outstanding woman to love.

As parents, we are most proud of the man Brian became.
As we miss him, we also feel a great dose of gratitude for having had the privilege to raise such a man.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A lucky man.

Photo 1: Brian on the left, jamming with Mike Kohan.
Photo 2: Hanging with Kalen Williams.
Photo 3: Officiating at Ruben Gann's and Jessica Dennis's wedding.
Photo 4: At a mutual  friend's wedding, with Kalen Williams, Sean Miller and Brian.

If having many friends  and a supporting family are part of happiness, Brian was a happy man. He had known Mike and Sean since elementary school, grew up playing sports together, in the same neighborhood, going to the same summer camps and participating in each other's life even after they moved on to college, to jobs.

They found ways  to play basketball or soccer whenever they had a chance to be together.  On many occasions, as teens, when life at home got icy, they spent time at each other's house, camping out until they could face their problems.

Mike and Brian took their first piano class from the same teacher, Miss Kalen.  Mike pursued piano and music professionally. Brian remained an amateur. As children, they recorded their efforts on a home-made CD, outfitting themselves as punk-rockers.

Though they attended different high schools, the boys attended games and dances at the other's school, expanding their circle of friendss.

Brian met Kalen Williams in college, were roommates.  That Sean ended socializing in the same circles is a testimony to their willingness to remain friends and continue to help with small and big things, like moving from one apartment to the other, giving each other's advice.

Ruben was Brian's lab mate. He has related stories about Brian,  about the jokes they played on each other in the Physics Lab, about moving a great big television from one place to another, never an easy task, and how the two of them conducted studies and published their first paper together. When it was time to marry, Ruben asked Brian to officiate. Brian took the task seriously, even qualifying himself officially with some sort of on line course and certificate.

I found scrap papers in the Long Beach house as I was cleaning up. He had organized a party game, with Jeopardy type questions and games that involved recall, analysis, word association, current affairs, world history. The game was quite elaborate.

After his death one of his friends volunteered to draft an obituary.  My husband and I remarked that we couldn't have done any better. The obituary mentioned Brian's warmth, his sense of humor, his intelligence, his  playfulness. ( I never did find out who wrote that beautiful obituary!)

At his funeral, at his memorial, pictures were displayed and stories were told. Each person customized a written message for the boardwalk they created.

Brian was indeed a very lucky man.