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.