Tag Archives: Growing Up

Oh Daddy

He was a whistler and a whittler, and I miss him so.

Most nights, after we ate dinner, dad would sit in his chair, pick up a piece of wood and, depending on the point in its creation, would either sand or whittle with sharp as a razor knives.  Whales.  Birds.  Strange objects.  To my right on my desk is a interlinked set of ovals whittled out of some light wood.  His knife strokes are right there for me to see.

These links are symbolic.  I was born on my dad’s 41st birthday.

He was a fisherman and a tinkerer.  He taught me both.   I can still picture in my mind all the different fishing holes we visited. Our neighborhood had Square Pond, arrived at after a walk through the Connecticut woods and across a simple, open meadow.  While he would go fly fishing for Big Mama, the bass he was sure lurked in the deep, I would flit along the shore,  trying to catch bullfrogs or successfully catching tennis ball-sized Sunnies.  A longer car ride away was the place where we tried for carp, one from an overpass and another down by the river.  When I grew to be in middle and high school, we would try for salmon in Washington State, a long windy drive out to Fox Island until the road dead ended, and then an equally long windy walk past the blackberry and raspberry bushes down to the huge dock overhanging the Narrows.  Instead of the light poles with a red and white bobber, we used long, heavy salmon rods laden with herring that took all you had to whip it out there into the current.  We’d catch dog fish (which I believe were a kind of shark) that the Vietnamese fisherman who squatted for hours while they fished would take home, and every so often we would land a salmon. On every fishing trip there was a lot of casting and reeling in.  Casting and reeling in.  “Something’s out there, Sue,” he’d say.  “Just got to be patient.”  He was ever the optimist when it came to fishing.

He showed me the value of working hard.  Of trying to fix things yourself.  Of being creative in your down time.   Of telling good stories.  Of reading.

He could carve a beautiful turn down any ski hill, and perhaps his greatest gift to me, other than making me in the first place, was teaching me the same love for skiing.  He started me at 4, as I have done with my son, first in between his legs going down the almost flat hills, then watching as I shusshed down the slopes and doing the inevitable sweep of the hill behind me.

He carved me a small wooden mouse with a tiny leather tail that was pinned to my jacket or hat when I skied.  He told me it was a mogul mouse, that would help me navigate through a mogul field and not fall down.  There was nothing, he admitted, to be done about the snow snakes.  You just had to carve those turns and hope for the best.

We worked together to bring back to life a 1971 MGB-GT.  That meant many evenings after school and on the weekend, after he had played his round of golf with his buddies, we would attack a certain part of the car with the Chilton’s manual by our side and a whole heap of good intentions.  I learned to gap spark plugs.  Fiddle with duel carbs.  The crazy make-up of a disk brake system with all it’s little “shoes” and moving parts, and how to apply Bondo.  I learned with him that the electrical system on a British car is a thing of mystery, no matter what the pages of the manual say.  And that the simple touches, like the rear view mirror affixed to the right front fender, are both necessary and rakish.

He called me Chatterbox and Finella.  And George, sometimes.  You see, I was the son my dad never had.  How I wish I could hug and kiss him today.

 

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Recollections of Collections

We cleaned out Hans’ room last week.  Installed a proper bed with storage underneath, so his room has lost the “college dorm mattress on the floor” feeling.  Because we live in a house with jewel box-sized rooms, streamlining is in order.  The IKEA credenza that held all manner of flotsam and jetsam collected from 12 years of living as a young boy in America was dutifully emptied into bags, dumped on the dining room table, and gone through item by item.

Things that were So Important in days gone by have lost their pull.   Bouncy balls from the dentist.  Matchbox cars from almost every visit to Grandma’s house.  Polished stones.  Bits of crystal.  Teck Deck Dudes.  Bottle caps.  Strange little plastic things.  And, unbelievably, the air soft gun pellets.

Do you have a young boy too?  Do you know of these things?  And the pull that they had every waking moment outdoors?  Gripped by the zeal of a treasure hunter armed with a metal detector on a beach in Maui, Hans would scour every path, park, and patch of dirt for these little round beads.   Some colors were everywhere, dropped out of the mouth of an air soft gun like crumbs from Gretel’s pocket.   Green for example.  But not the see-through green.   Those were hard to find, I think.   Blues hardly ever showed up.  Same with white.  My son collected them in his pants pocket and stored them in his room, first in a glass jar, then in a see-through plastic container with dividers so he could separate the colors.  This took a lot of time when he was little.  The separating bit.

I longed for the day when this fascination passed.   When we could go for a walk without staring at the ground, advancing one s-l-o-w foot after another, hunched over like an arthritic octogenarian.   Pass it did, into perhaps the Lego fascination or the Teck Deck Dude collecting.   Everything passes into something else in life, and this past week I marked the growing up of my son, by liberating the tiny bb’s into my garbage can, and the glass jar back into my cupboard.

And for those wondering, yes, these are all my pictures.  Taken from my handy dandy Cannon G11, mostly without any fiddling after the fact in those fancy yet as-yet unlearned programs like Photoshop.  I fiddle as I shoot.  That is why digital is so fantastic for me.  I’m not completely sure how to manipulate all the aspects of F-stop and depth and speed and all that, but I have a bit of knowledge.  And I try.  If it sucks, I throw it out.  If it is cool, I push it a bit more.  (Full disclosure:  I did uber tint one photo a while ago, but then I hope it  was obvious that the boy and the sky wasn’t banana yellow naturally.  Oh, and I did pick up some gorgeous pictures of handbags and rings made out of food that someone else took.  I’m good, just not THAT good).

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The View From the Top

This blog is about inspiration, basically.  I write about what moves me, whether it is something beautiful, silly, tragic, or just … well … something.  I hope that my mutterings are interesting, and I try to keep them concise.  After all, writing should be enjoyed, not endured.

So it’s the beginning of the year, and I am full of promise and promises.  Yes, that means I worked out this morning, by taking the dog up to the ridge after I dropped my boy at school.   Actually he jumped out of the car at the stoplight, hopped on his skateboard, and pumped toward the middle school.

All action.  All the time.  It’s what boys do.

I tried to mimic his energy up on the ridge, with the idea that I would run up the hills and walk down the back side.  You know, get the steep awful stuff out of the way as fast as possible by putting my head down and trying to forget, for a brief period, that everything in my body hurt.  The pay off, if you can call it that, comes at the top, when the pumping is over but the pain is not.   I look at my shoes a lot during this period.  And pant.

But then the pain passes.   Disintegrates like a foggy windshield heated by the defroster.   That’s when I look up and enjoy the leisurely walk down the back side, taking in the view of Mt. Tam and the houses snuggled in the green trees.

Janine and Alan are running up some steep hills lately.   And they inspire me because of it.  My wish for them in this new year – and for all of us really – is that the inexplicable grace of life sets on their shoulders and allows them, and their sweet son Mason, to walk leisurely down the back side, taking in the view.

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The Tipping Point

I am in a very interesting bitter/sweet position right now.  My work, this book that I’ve written, is, like a trickle of a river just being born, seeping away from Mill Valley.  There are some parched people out there.  People who wished they had it when.  People who know someone who needs it now.  People who are about to lose it all, and can’t imagine life on the other side.   They tell me their stories.  My very wise girlfriend tells me, “You’re allowing them to birth their grief.”

Yes.  Airing out our grief is part of what we need to do.  It’s as normal and healthy as filling our lungs with air to breathe.  But oh, why is it so hard sometimes?

I am struck by how I am at the nexus of all this emotion, and yet I am a person who doesn’t exactly emote.  And by that I don’t mean that I don’t feel, it’s just that I have a tight seal on that bubbling pot.  Before I went into therapy after I was diagnosed, the volcano would erupt every so often, and I’d be shocked at what came out.   Like who knew your throat could hurt so much with such a short yet vicious spitting of words?  Or how your whole body gets involved when anger comes out.  Sometimes, not every often at all, it was sadness and the relief from just letting it all go, and sobbing because that is exactly what every pore of your body longs to do.  To expel.  To empty.  To let it all down.

I’ve written, because I’ve been asked, of what piece of advice I’d give friends of someone who is diagnosed.  And I’ve cleverly said that even more than my book, the gift that every cancer patient (and in fact any human being in any situation good or bad) wants is for you to listen.  Just listen.

People, it is hard to listen sometimes.  It takes a certain amount of self control.  You have to not interject what you want to say, and instead just receive what that person has to give.  Sometimes it’s over in a minute.  Other times, it will take half the night.  Or 3 weeks.  Or a year.

I’ve had a number of pretty heavy conversations as of late, spanning topics and situations.  Because, that is life.  It’s sticky and messy and oh, oh, oh so confusing sometimes.  We all just want to live in peace, and that is true whether there is some foreign thing attacking us from the inside out, or a relationship that is just not firing on all cylinders like we wish it should, or a job that no matter how hard we try to make it work, it’s just not behaving.   Children.  Husbands.  Health.  Stuff.

Life.

I’d be lying if I said I am a good listener.  I am a doer.  I want to fix.  And although I just spent all those words saying that one really must just listen, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that sometimes I have this need to wade into the deep end with people.

Because if all you’re doing is being a sounding board, and you maybe have something to say that might change things (even the tinest bit), maybe that interaction or interjection could be the tipping point for change.  Because, you know, things do tip.  It may be something you read that offers a different perspective.  Or a comment from a friend that makes you ponder for a moment your position.  Or a stranger.  Maybe you’ve been teetering on a decision, and all you need is that featherlight tap to hurl you into an action that will change your life.

I just recently learned that the act of speaking raises our blood pressure from 10 to 50%.  The act of listening?  Lowers it.  So with our overall health in mind, both physical and mental, here’s to listening to each other.  What we fear.  What we hope for.  What we wish our life could be like.

Let’s listen anew.

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My Little Buddy

This is my scooter, Buddy.  Really.  Of all the names, the manufacturer who was clearly gunning for the Vespa crowd, picked the name Buddy.  So friendly.  And cuddly.

It is rather a contradiction that I own a scooter.    I think that motorcycles are really dangerous, and I would never allow my son to ride one.

However, I know that there is nothing finer than riding on a scooter when the weather is hot.  And I am very happy to throw Hans on the back of mine and trot him off to soccer practice or school.

At Stanford, I drove a scooter around, and actually got my ONLY moving violation to date, because I didn’t turn off the ignition when I passed the concrete bollards that marked the area where motor vehicles could not go past.  When I coasted up to the music building, one of the campus cops on a motorcross bike was there to hand me a ticket.  I mean, I was coasting.  It was ridiculous.   The scooter was lent to me by my boyfriend at the time, a big old football player that didn’t relish the idea of peddling around campus.  I loved to put on headphones, listen to  “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult at full blast, and drive around the campus at night.

I think this is part of my “have fun with life” mantra, tempered by driving slow and always having my left thumb squarely on the horn button.   When I drove up to soccer practice the other day to pick up Hans, one of the kids looked at the scoot, then at his dad, and said, “Awww Dad, why did you get rid of your motorcycle?”

“Because I wanted to watch you grow up,” the dad replied.

Funny, I had the same feeling when I was diagnosed.  That I desperately wanted to watch Hans grow up. But somehow I don’t equate riding this souped up 10-speed with putting my life on the line.

Maybe it’s a male thing.

Or maybe I already understand that my life is always on the line, even when I’m being careful.

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Slipping

He doesn’t put his arms around me anymore.

And I get it.

But talk about a very obvious change in the boy I used to have ride on the scooter with me, who would grip me tight around the middle and yell into my ears.  He’s now a youngish man/boy, who holds on to the back rack behind him instead of to his mama.

And I can feel it, right there.  A flutter in my heart.  A pinch.

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