Since You’ve Been Gone

June 15, 2014


Hey dad.. thinking of you today.  So much has happened to your oldest kid and only daughter in the last fourteen years! I think you’d be happy for me and pleased to know that things have turned out great.  You have a lot to do with that in direct, and so many indirect, ways, so.. thank you.

Here’s a bit of a summary.. you know.. in case you don’t already know all this.  Heck, what do I know…  I’m an earthly mortal and as far as I understand, this is all the consciousness that exists… but ya never know. Covering my bases here.

– Peter will be sixteen in nine days. Yes, 16!  Driver’s license right around the corner. Turns out, he’s a pretty good driver.. maybe as good as I was!  Maybe even better. So far, no near misses like that scary one when I was sixteen years old, driving back from Long Beach.. the one that almost took out our WHOLE FAMILY in one fell swoop. Our biggest issue with Peter right now is making sure he NEVER texts while driving.  Oh… texting is the way kids talk to each other these days. They use their smart phones, which we all carry with us at all times, which is not safe when they’re driving, but it will all get safer when voice recognition gets more sophisticated, and even safer when VR is built right into our cars, and, of course, safer still when cars are driving themselves, which is coming, but not soon enough, and… oh… never mind; things are very different now..

– Jim and I have been married now for almost eighteen years! I would describe it as a very good, very strong marriage. We talk a lot. In fact, we’ve been in weekly counseling for about seven years, which strengthens our communication and bond even more. Wish you and mom had done that. I know marriage counseling wasn’t as widely accepted in the 60s and 70s as it is now. I think some facilitated conversation would have helped your relationship with mom, I wish you could have talked more. Bottom line, I love the connection I have with Jim. I know you would be happy for me.

– Speaking of mom, she’s doing great. Slowing down physically, but hasn’t lost a thing between the ears. She had open heart surgery four and half years ago and about a year ago they put a pacemaker in. Smoking caught up with her, too. But hey, she quit! I think it’s been about seven years, which as you can imagine, took amazing strength and resolve. She really loved her Sherman Browns. She continued to play tennis for many, many years after you died, but that got too difficult. Now she gets her exercise by walking a mile on the Esplanade. She even walks up and down the ramps, her “Mt. Everest,” she calls it. She’s not playing as much bridge, but still gets together with her birthday group for lunches, and she still wipes me out in gin rummy. She has agency assistance during the day because she can’t drive anymore, and as you can probably guess, she just hates this. She takes care of everything–the house, the yard, finances, investments–all of it. You’d be proud of her. She keeps up with all the tennis tournaments and the stock market, still reads like crazy, keeps in touch with Bonnie, Petersons, Johnsons and a few friends… many are gone. She travels to Davis for Thanksgiving and we’ve taken a couple of great road trips. She’s still slim and trim, still rocks an amazing wardrobe, is still funny, fiercely independent, and smart as a whip. I’m betting you’re smiling right about now.

– Jay lives in Thailand! Remember his accident at TRW? His back just never recovered, even after three surgeries. I can’t remember if you knew that Northrup-Grumman absorbed TRW. I hope I’m not the one to tell you that! Anyway, Jay left work due to his back, settled with the company and shortly thereafter took off for Thailand. That, is a much longer story to fill you in on! He has a Thai girlfriend and seems happier and more relaxed than ever in a warm environment (Phuket, you’ve traveled there!) with warm water and spear fishing… easy on the spine.

– Chris still runs Headline Media. Still in PV. Still surfing. Still reading a lot. Unmarried, laid back and seems utterly content with his life.

– Matt left the world of mortgages and finance and now owns a sports bar in Long Beach with Eric, called Legends which is a big deal in Belmont Shores. I’ll give you a moment to process that. He describes the learning curve as near vertical, but loves it and is perfectly suited to it. He and Michael are celebrating about eighteen years together, still in the same house, which has expanded, as you might guess. New dogs, but same love of travel, entertaining, home and garden. They’re the best.

– John graduated from high school and ended up marrying his high school sweetheart. He and Alexis (I can’t remember if you ever met her) are made for each other. We hope they’ll start a family one of these days. He’s been working at Eric’s pub in Long Beach and builds guitars! He has just started to spend more time behind the bar at Legend’s. He has turned into a great adult.

– As a family, Jim, Peter and I still spend most of our vacation time in the Sierra. Next month will be our 15th annual trip to Tuolumne Meadows up in Yosemite and we’ll hike every single day. Peter has turned into a freakishly goal-oriented hiker with his sights set on many (most) of the world’s highest mountains. He’s seen grandpa’s tree at Fallen Leaf and feels pretty proud that there is some family history that links us to the Sierra. Yay grandpa! When Peter was eleven, we all climbed Mt. Whitney. Yep, right to the top! 14,500 feet! It was fantastic. When Peter gets old, he’ll probably tell stories about his adventures in the mountains just like Uncle Vic always does.

– By the way, Uncle Vic’s still alive. He’s going to be 92 in a couple weeks! He’s mostly in a wheel chair, but while he’s slowed down physically, he’s still sharp, sharp, sharp. Aunt Joy takes good care of him. And Aunt Ellie’s just fine, though dealing with lots of cancer-related things… she still stays up on the latest and best treatment for all of her issues and manages very well.  And Uncle Bud..wow, he’s going to be 90 in December.. he’s still here, too! Nearly bent into a 90-degree angle but still drives and plays golf even. I wish you were here to complete the six-some. Too much to catch you up on, with Johnson kids and their kids.  Subjects for another post.

– Related to our love of mountains and hiking, you’ll love this: I went to Nepal three years ago and trekked all the way up to the base camp of Mount Everest!! Over 18,000 feet. It is one of the most incredible experiences of my life (so far), and I am so glad I went. I felt bad going there without Peter and Jim, especially since Peter was such a Himalaya-o-phile at that time. He’d already been studying the mountain and its routes, knew all the surrounding peaks and the names of those who’d climbed there. But I got an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. You will never believe who I went with… two of the Hesse girls!  Yes!! Karen and Leslie.  I even wrote a book about it — 204 pages. I’m still very wordy, love to document everything.  Anyway. Nepal was amazing and it was great to reconnect with the Hesses. We talked a lot about you and Fred.

– Baseball is huge in our lives. Peter started playing t-ball when he was five years old. He started pitching at the AA level when he was about seven years old and has been pitching ever since. Kids who are serious about baseball play “travel ball” once they’ve aged out of Little League, so in addition to all the Little League all-star teams, Peter played a higher level of baseball in all these travel games and tournaments. He was lucky enough to make the high school freshman team two years ago, unlike Jay. It has really defined his high school experience so far. Wish the same had happened for Jay; I think about that a lot. You would love watching Peter play; he is a solid player and when he’s on the mound, he appears calm and confident (even when his hands are shaking, which they do when he’s nervous). It’s amazing to see how far these kids have come along. It gets harder and harder to make the team as the number of players selected for the high school teams gets smaller and smaller with every year. Not sure what will happen going forward, but for now he’s playing and having a great time.

– Speaking of baseball, we are not really Dodger fans. Not because we don’t love the Dodgers, but just because we’ve never found a team to get all hysterical about. If Peter has a favorite, it might be the Angels right now.  Yes.. the California Angels; they are popular! They are now called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Nutty, right? They have this great guy named Albert Pujols who played forever with the St. Louis Cardinals.  I know, Dad.. the Cardinals. And another guy named Mike Trout. Peter really likes these guys, but more than being a rabid fan, he just likes to play. Vin Scully is still calling games for the Dodgers. Unbelievable, huh? He’s going to be 87 years old! Tommy Lasorda, too. Just like you if you were alive today. Crazy.

– I retired! Eight years ago (at 50). I know, hard to believe, huh?  I loved and enjoyed my job so much and was so excited about where the field was going and my role in shaping that vision. All I can say is it was unjust. As you know, unplanned retirement can be a little destabilizing. I am not at all unhappy about sudden retirement, and have found a number of other pursuits that inspire and engage me. I’m very okay, so don’t worry.

– Peter’s playing your piano. He sits down and plays almost every day. He’s never had lessons, but plays nicely. Rock and roll tunes mostly that he picks out, adds chords to, and perfects through relentless repetition. He’s taught himself watching YouTube videos. I just cracked myself up writing that… you have no idea what YouTube is. Remember that Internet thing that everyone was talking about in the 90s and how I tried to get you and mom to buy a computer? YouTube is this place on the Internet that has absolutely every song ever sung, snippets from every TV show ever made, every comedian and every comedy bit ever performed, how-to’s for everything imaginable… all available to watch.  Oh… never mind, it’s hard to explain. Anyway, Peter is playing your old piano.  We just had it tuned a couple weeks ago; sounds great and still looks beautiful. I am so grateful grandma gave it to me; it has found a good home here.

– Peter’s biggest project in his english class this year was to pick a career and explore it through research and interviews. He chose aeronautical engineering. How’s that for interesting!  Had you been around, I’m sure you would have given him a lot to think about. He loves science and math and can’t wait to take physics next year. For Jim’s birthday a couple months ago, the three of us went to see a documentary recently made about the Hadron Collider and Higgs Boson particle.  You may remember that guy, Peter Higgs, who in 1964, with a bunch of other physicists, theorized the existence of this particle that would validate the Standard Model, a fundamental part of particle physics theories… etc etc etc… I don’t understand much about it at all, but it’s really interesting and I’m sure you all talked about it at TRW back in the day. Its existence was proven in 2012!  I think he may have won a nobel prize for it. Anyway, all of this fascinates Peter and, who knows… maybe he’ll pursue a career along these lines. How about that?

– Related, a while back, Peter and I wandered around the Stanford campus and Peter imagined what it’d be like to go there. It’s pretty much impossible to get in these days. You, Uncle Vic, Aunt Ellie and grandpa are too removed to have any influence. It’s completely out of Peter’s reach academically anyway.  Only one kid from Davis got accepted this year. To get in, you pretty much need a GPA well over a 4.0 and SAT scores that are nearly perfect. Can you believe that, that you can actually have GPAs of 4.5 and higher!  Seems to defy the basic laws of math, doesn’t it?  But that’s the way college entrance is these days. Be glad it wasn’t the case for you or even me!  I’d never get into a UC today. Obama’s trying to fix that, but meeting up with resistance.

– Oh… Barack Obama is our current president. He’s black. Yep. That mere fact has brought our country to a political stand still, more polarized than ever, nothing’s getting done. Your republican buddies in Congress are blocking every effort of the administration. It’s pathetic. Oh, and there is a new “party,” not a real party, but a radical wing of the republican party… called The Tea Party. They have done more harm in the last eight years than I can explain in a paragraph. You wouldn’t recognize your own party.

– And, more good news, it’s likely that Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary will follow Obama into the White House. I am not kidding. The first woman president right on the heels of the first black president. How ya doin’ with all this?

– Well…   having broached politics… I guess I should tell you, I’m even more liberal than I was when you were around, and drifting further and further leftward with every election.  Sorry dad. Just following heart and trusting my conscience.. I think you’d want me to do that.  Right? I’m not even going to tell you what’s happened to mom’s politics, but let’s just say I respect her more than ever.

Now that you’re turning over in your grave, I’d better stop with the summary. But know that I’m thinking of you, and looking back mostly with love and fondness and gratitude. I accept that fathers of your generation were a different breed than the fathers of today–I’ve watched and learned a lot from Mad Men (that’s a TV show about corporate executives in the 50s and 60s)… it has helped me understand, generally, a lot of what motivated, inspired and derailed fathers in the 50s, 60s and 70s. I watch the show specifically with you in mind. It’s very weird, but also very illuminating. It’s been profound for me, even though it’s just a TV show. I have come to understand that era so much better. I know you were a product of the times and your upbringing. I know you loved us and did your best. I’d so love to talk to you about all of that, you know, if I could, though I’m not sure you were ever comfortable looking inward. I’m sure the drinking and the hard living were ways of avoiding most of that. And wow.. that’s a whole nuther set of topics…

I didn’t expect to go here when I started this post and feel like I need to be more fair and thoughtful if I’m going to keep writing… so perhaps more at a later time. For now, will wrap this up.

Thinking of you today, dad, and missing you. Wish you could see how everything has turned out.

With love.

P.S. Here’s a bench we installed in your honor right after you died. Since we scattered your ashes (you know this, right? at Point Lobos in Carmel?), I wanted a place close by where I could reflect and think about you… so.. the bench. It’s across the street, sits under a eucalyptus tree (of course) and is angled toward our house. This picture was taken about five years ago… Peter’s 10 and uncle Vic’s 86.

concert and vicjoy 021

2 Responses to “Since You’ve Been Gone”

  1. I loved this. Absolutely loved this.

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