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.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A man with simple tastes.

This picture was taken on his 31st birthday, by Janet.
This type of breakfast was probably typical of him.

When he visited, and I offered to make him breakfast, he came back with: "Mom, you rest, I'll make you breakfast!" He enjoyed fussing in the kitchen, rustling up some grub, making the most of whatever he found. He was generous with his time, and these little offerings to make me breakfast were most appreciated.

So, we'd sit around, I with strong coffee, he with a latte or a glass of milk, and catch up.
"What do you eat, son?" I would ask.
"I try to cook a good meal."
"What do you make?"
"BBQ chicken, fish. spaghetti."
"I've started to grow some greens, arugula, in the front yard, and left it there to seed and now..."
"Yes, it self seeds. You'll have arugula everywhere. Basil and parsley too."
"I put basil in every dish!"
"How do you make your spaghetti?"
"I use the same tomatoes and paste you use. It does make a difference, no?"

And that's how it went. He was conscious of nutritional needs, of staying in shape, of eating well, of avoiding additives.  He was also conscious of how his dog was growing, what nutritional needs he had, and had switched to raw food for Butters to keep her healthy. He spent time exercising her too, taking her to dog parks and to swimming holes.

With time, he would have grown more vegetables in that big yard of his.
He talked about putting in a pool for exercise and a studio/greenhouse, a place where he could grow even more vegetables.

He had purchased a modest house, a small California bungalow that he would soon outgrow. But for now, he was home.

Janet had told him about some family farms nearby, and he began purchasing CSA produce from them, trying new vegetables he was not familiar with. Riding his bike down the LA River under freeways and major streets, he discovered old families with horse ranches training kids to ride horses, keeping livestock and vegetable gardens. He was impressed with their way of life, their self sufficiency.

That last summer, I could see how he and Janet were viewing the world together, growing together, planning and dreaming together.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brian and Port Orford.

We moved to Port Orford in 2003, while Brian was still at Riverside, in college. He had visited this part of the country with his sister, and had actually spent a night north of here in Bandon.  He fell in love with this part of Oregon, and was happy to know that after a couple of hours on a plane to Eureka, he was back with us. We picked him up in Eureka and drove the three hours to reach Port Orford, talking all the way.

Our moving away from his childhood home, meant that Brian didn't return home after college. He remained in Riverside, working  at the University during summer vacation, until he got his job at L3 and moved to Long Beach. I remember the time he called to tell us about Wooly's (his dog) illness. Losing Wooly to cancer broke his heart.

This picture was taken in November 2009, a few weeks after he bought the house and acquired his new dog, Buttercup. For two plus years, he dreamed of buying a house so he could house a new dog.  Here,  he is starting to work on his front garden.

Janet can tell you more about this project than I can. Brian and I had talked about this, but it was Janet who guided him through this first project.