Category Archives: Family

at Mom and Dad’s

I only spent about 24 hours there from yesterday to today which included a night’s sleep. Actually about half a night, but that’s another story.

Yesterday was Mom and Dad’s 65th wedding anniversary. They allowed me to join them for dinner out last night. We went to Fish Market in Sunnyvale. Mom kept saying it had been several years since they had been there last. The dinner prices were a little higher than they’d gotten used to paying at Marie Callendar’s or Mimi’s. I tried to pick up the tab but they very firmly (both of them) told me no, I was their guest.

Of course, Valentine’s Day is a big day in the restaurant business and the place was jammed. Mom had made a reservation, though, and we got to a table pretty quickly. There were no booths and the table we got was right in the middle of the action: waiters and waitresses flying by with plates of food, and groups of patrons often with Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. One couple had not only a large bouquet, but an even larger heart-shaped silver balloon. I don’t know what he did with it when he sat down. The cooks were only about 10 or 15 feet away so that added to the show.

It was noisy too. Dad doesn’t say much in the best of situations so he really didn’t say much at the restaurant. Mom sat next to him and leaned over every once in a while to say something to him which he responded to. Until the food came, he watched the hubbub very carefully. He applied himself to the food: salmon and potatoes au gratin, coleslaw, a glass of wine. Oh, and bread with butter before. He took a while but he ate everything.

For some perverse reason, I ordered California rolls from the sushi bar at the same time I ordered dinner. It was too much but I ate about half of them. Mom, after eyeing them distrustfully for most of the dinner, finally tried one, complete with ginger and horseradish. Honestly, they weren’t very good.

We got home in time to watch a Nova program about the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. It should have been interesting after having seen the Churchill movie but I fell asleep while it was droning on. When I woke up, there was a guy rhapsodizing about some project involving the islands in Dubai. Dad had had a nap in the afternoon so, despite his huge dinner, he was awake. Mom was out. I went to bed.

voices of my children

After posting twice already today with posts that were largely written my children, I found myself thinking tonight about my third child, my only daughter, Sarah.

Sarah is a writer too but her writing is hidden from me. At one time I handled some diaries from her youth. I promised I would not read them and I have kept that promise. I do not know if she still writes like that. She is a very busy person although I will go out on a limb to say that her life has simplified in the last year or so.

When she first returned to California after earning her doctorate in music, she took jobs playing music wherever they presented themselves. Orchestra musicians in the Sf Bay Area sometimes refer to these jobs as ‘The Freeway Philharmonic.’ They are rather widely spread. A friend of hers from college had started a music academy and Sarah got some students there. It was nothing like a regular job, though. Her pay was directly dependent on the number of student she had. In fact, she was more like a contractor in both cases.

One reason for coming back to the Bay Are was that she wanted to continue her study of body mechanics called the Alexander Method. There was a particularly good teacher in San Francisco.

So, for two years she juggled all these things while getting more and more discouraged that she could not make a decent living without spending hours in Bay Area traffic. She even talked to me about going back to school to get a degree in something that she could make a living at.

There are really only three orchestras in the Bay Area that pay well enough for members to live decently without taking other work: San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and San Francisco Ballet. Sarah took auditions with all three of these organizations but did not play well enough to be hired. She did play well enough, however, to get put on the substitute list for all of them. Who would call first?

It was the Symphony. In October of 2015 I had the great joy of seeing my daughter’s name on the list of string players for that morning’s rehearsal at Davies Symphony Hall. I don’t think it was that first morning, but not long after, my colleague Nancy Foreman snapped this picture of the two of us in the hallway just offstage right:

I told everyone in sight how proud I was of her, and how amazing it was that she was working for the Symphony, but she always told me to be quiet. She said, ‘I’m just one mistake from never being called again!’

While perhaps not literally true, it was true in one respect: if you didn’t continue to play well, the Symphony would call someone else to sub. Sarah knew – knows! – that there are many good violinists out there who would love to play in the Symphony.

So she kept her head down and practiced like a mad person, tried to predict when the Symphony would need another violin and adjust her schedule accordingly. I don’t remember exactly how the early days went. She got a week in October, then I think it was a while before she was called again, then it was more weeks with nothing.

But by a year ago she was working almost every week for the Symphony and she had shed most of the other activities.that were discouraging her so much. Unlike the early times, she now knew sometimes as much as three weeks before the first rehearsal what music she would be playing. (At the beginning, they would often call on the morning of a rehearsal. Come in in two hours and sight read difficult music under the eyes and ears of the best musicians in the world. No pressure!)

I tried my best to allow her space at Davies. When I was there I had my own work to do and I didn’t want to add to the pressure. We see each other when it is needful and most people there know of our relationship. I’ve had the experience of tenured orchestra musicians coming up to me when she isn’t there and asking me why she’s not there, where is she, if she’s all right.They like her!

Best of all, I get to see her step out onto that stage and take her seat with that great orchestra and take care of business.

Back to my original point . . . I caught her backstage Saturday night to give her a birthday present. It was early and few other musicians were around. We chatted and I asked her how she liked the show she was doing. It was Leonard Bernstein’s operetta Candide with MTT conducting. No pressure.

I was actually surprised when she said she was really enjoying it. She said she could see the singers and hear the dialog. I said, ‘Isn’t the music difficult?’ She said yes but she practiced it.

You can see her name here in the middle of the second violins for her first week in 2015 but most of the last year she’s been playing in the firsts.

Jeremy

Jeremy posted on FaceBook yesterday. I didn’t see it until this morning but I thought it was worthy of sharing here as well.

For those who don’t know, Jeremy has been working as a basketball referee for a few years now. He’s been working his way up and has been doing some college games this year. These games from yesterday are high school games, though. I particularly like how this post shows, in clear and concise writing, Jeremy’s calm, professional attitude and work ethic without losing sight of the best that team sports can offer.

Just completed a span of a little more than 24 hours where I officiated:
-A competitive girls JV game where both teams played full-court pressure.
– A girls varsity game for the ages that went to overtime. On the short list of greatest basketball games I’ve ever been a part of.
– A relatively humdrum boys varsity game
– A competitive boys C-team game that came down to a last-second shot
– Competitive girls varsity game
– And in the finale, a tough boys varsity game whose final 30 seconds featured an intentional foul, three made free throws, a made three at the other end, an unforced turnover by the leading team giving the visitors the ball with a shot for the tie, said shot missed, home team rebounds and gets fouled, makes the first FT then misses the second (they’re up by 3 now), shooter crashes in and fouls on a rebound just before time expires, team that’s trailing gets two FT (after we put .5 back on the clock), makes the first FT and purposely misses the second, shooter commits a lane violation and the clock is inadvertently started so we have to put time back again, and finally we’re able to inbound and dribble out that last half-second and go home. I am one tired puppy and ready for date day tomorrow.

family communication

I haven’t written here in almost a week. As usual, there are many reasons, but one big reason this past week is that I’ve spent a lot of my writing impetus writing emails to my siblings. Last year I wanted to get a new car for my mother. I thought my reasons were good, and I talked it over with both her and Dad. We did some car shopping but it got put on the back burner sometime last fall.

Word of this car shopping got out – it was never a secret – and soon questions were being asked, help was being offered etc etc by my siblings. At some point, I decided the best way to keep everyone informed was to send out a blast email after I got back from a visit with Mom and Dad.

I think it’s been quite successful. Lots of discussion has been engendered that otherwise would have taken place over months, if at all. In fact, one comment I made in an email got back to Mom in a way she didn’t expect and now there’s blowback. Not from Mom, but from another sibling, who feels we are going behind the backs of Mom and Dad.

So, I’ve been spending a lot of time explaining this or that or defending myself. Now I’m trying leverage all of that into a blog post!

The six of us are lucky that both of our parents are still living and living by themselves in their own house. The problem, if you want to call it that, is that all good things must come to an end. Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. No one knows how that will progress except that he will continue to decline. Mom is in good health now and takes care of Dad with few problems but she is nearly the same age as him so the margin for error is razor thin. All of us help as we can but there are more and more issues that crop up that concern all of us as a group.

For me, the solution is easy. I like to write. I write about my time with Mom and Dad and send it out in a blast to my siblings. This gets everyone the same information at the same time and allows (assuming consistent reply alls) a good discussion of the issues.

I don’t know. Nothing is perfect. Not all of my siblings like to write like I do so it’s harder for them to chime in. If we were to try to do group Skype conversations (for example) it would be agony trying to find a time that would be good for everyone.

The best news is that all of us respect and like each other. I’ve heard stories of other families . . .

sick

Sick. I’ve been sick. I’m pretty sure it’s just a head cold, but it has kept me low for almost a whole week now. Sunday I wrote in a post that I had a headache. That’s not uncommon but Monday it came back and it wouldn’t go away throughout a nice Christmas Day at Mom and Dad’s. Sarah had been at Jane’s Sunday night decorating cookies so I went over and did some. Here are our results:

Sarah came and stayed at my place Sunday night. Monday it was the two of us plus Rose in my car going down to Santa Clara. Jane and Joe and Jack came down. Mary was already there since Saturday. Teresa was there until about 2 when she had to go to work. Julian and Lisa came down but they were sick and didn’t stay long.

My headache never went away, despite some rather frenzied applications of medicine: ibuprofen, excedrin. maxalt – nothing worked. The next day I was torched. I stayed in bed pretty much all day and night. The headaches were under control but I was extremely tired. I did check my temperature but there was no fever. Wednesday I was going to go back down to Santa Clara and stay overnight but I knew I couldn’t do that nor did I want to expose Mom and Dad. Jane called me and said she would drive me down just for a couple of hours. It was Dad’s birthday. Jane got him to agree to walk over to the new visitor center at ‘Apple Park’. That was nice. the weather was perfect.Cool but sunny.

Yesterday I felt better and got out to do some grocery shopping. In the afternoon, I went to take a nap but actually felt pretty good so I got up. I still went to bed about 7 as I had every other night starting Tuesday. By now the fatigue wasn’t so bad but the constant stuffiness in my head along with the coughing and runny nose. I take Afrin at night so I can breathe but try really hard not to take any decongestant during the daylight hours. Sometimes I think the Afrin works a little too well, creating a direct path for the cold air to blast through my sinuses to the back of my throat, where there is a tender spot from the post nasal drip.

Well, today I went to work and did ok. Luckily just an 8 hour day and no one was in the building but Tim W and me. Tim put up with my sniffles. I didn’t get too close. Now it’s almost 8 and I’m heading to bed.

One last thing. Mary got this picture of Dad on Christmas Day as he was taking all the torn up wrapping paper out to recycling. He’s still got his sense of humor!

musings

I see that it’s been a week since I went out of my norm and posted on a political theme. The hope I felt only a week ago has been dashed by the passage of the Republicans’ ‘tax reform’ bill. As a side not, I put ‘hope’ in my tag window for this post and saw that it’s the first time I’ve tagged that word. That’s pretty sad that I haven’t written about hope in 18 months of this blog.

I’ve written about goals, which are kind of like hope, I think. One implies the other, although I’m not sure which would come first.

I’m going down to stay with Mom and Dad today. Just one night then home again tomorrow night. Work on Saturday then back down to Santa Clara on Monday, Christmas Day. I believe we’ll have 13 for dinner. That’ll be nice. Tim shared with his siblings the birthday card Mom and Dad sent him last week. Dad wrote on it, which is not common any more, but it was somewhat disjointed. He referred to his having ‘half a brain’. I told Tim that that was the worst of what is happening to him: he knows. It won’t get better so, to me, that means treasuring what we can when we can. Thus, I visit as often as possible.

At work, I’ve been trying to develop relationships with people outside my norm. I try to take time to have real honest talk with some of the Davies Hall ushers, with some of the Symphony staff. Everyone is at work, so we all recognize that is our priority but there are private moments. Working primarily in the front of the house, I hardly have any contact with the musicians any more. The last three or four shows I’ve done, Sarah was playing but I didn’t have time to get back stage at the right moment to talk to her. It’s been extremely hard for me to get out and do things not work or family related.

Just him

Tidying up files today I found this quote from Rosalie, written up by Ashley in January of this year:

A friend stopped by this afternoon to give Rosalie a memory box to keep special things that remind her of Zach. After she left, I asked R some questions thinking I would write down her answers for the box.
“What do you remember about Uncle Zach?”
“Bad news bananas!!!” (Smiles and giggles )
“What was your favorite memory, or something that you remember, about Uncle Zach?”
“Just him.”
“Your favorite part was just all of him?”
“Yeah. Just him.”

tea

I had to look it up. It was Christmas 2011. Zach had moved from Oregon to Louisiana the summer before. Sarah had started her doctorate program in Colorado. Jeremy and Ashley had moved into their own home. I was starting to get back on my feet after the economic disaster of 2008 and 2009.

I don’t remember if I helped to finance, or if I suggested it, but with all five of us in one place at the same time, I wanted to get a nice picture of all of us. Ashley’s brother Ryan had a nice camera and generously agreed to take some pictures. there are a bunch of good ones, but this is the one I picked today:

But back to tea. For a Christmas present, my children got together and gave me a teapot and some tea. I don’t know why exactly. I had not been a tea drinker. I didn’t (still don’t) drink coffee. I had become a fan of caffeine over the years when I discovered it helped with my headaches but I had never thought about getting it via liquids.

OK, I have a teapot now. When I got home, I started trying out the teas that had come with the teapot. Eventually, I developed some knowledge of what I liked. The next year for Christmas, Zach sent me a huge assortment of teas. Here’s my kitchen cabinet after they arrived:

I’ve got some nice glass containers now but otherwise the cabinet looks much the same. I keep lots of different teas and drink whatever feels right at the moment. I have some loose leaf teas but use tea bags most of the time.

I thought of all of this last night when I was at the grocery store getting milk. I always go down the tea aisle, even when I have plenty of tea. I guess I look for stuff on sale. At this point I know what stores have what teas so there aren’t many surprises.

What struck me last night was that the Stash tea was about the cheapest tea there. Stash was the brand of the assortment that Zach had sent me and I thought it was pretty good. It’s an Oregon company so I thought there was some angle for him there. They have lots of teas so I was able to try lots of different flavors.

Today was Oolong. Thinking of you, Zach.

Museum of Flight

Or, as the sign in front say, ‘Museum of Fligh . . .’

Really, it was a nice museum. Yesterday was the day all four of us would have together and going to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle was the chosen activity. When we walked in to the main hall, we were greeted by the sight of dozens of aircraft, some on the floor and some hanging from the ceiling. An SR-71 Blackbird dominated the whole scene.

I thought it looked great, but at that moment realized we were there with a 4 year old. OK, almost 5 but still very young. But at that moment, we saw right in front of us a nice young man inviting us to the kid’s project table. They were going to demonstrate how to build a catapult in just a couple of minutes. Rosalie listened attentively to the presentation using a tablet and stood patiently in line to get her materials but was less interested in the details of actually building it. It was actually a simple little trebuchet built with popsicle sticks and rubber bands. Given the task of decorating the sticks, however, Rosalie came to life.

After it was built, she stood in line for some puff balls to launch and chose two small purple ones. Once explained the technique of launching, she took over and entertained us by launching her purple puff balls for us to try to catch.We walked around the hall. She sat in the SR-71 cockpit with Ashley:She found the kids play area and tested the wind tunnel machine:

Checked out the view from inside a light plane cockpit:

Tried the hurricane simulator with Mom:

Then we had lunch. After lunch was the Hall of Heroes, which is a review of the two World Wars with an emphasis on American planes and flyers. Then we walked across the skybridge to the pavilion which contained, among other things, an Air Force One, Boeing 727, 737, 747, 787, a Concorde, a B-29, a B-17, a B-47 and some others I don’t remember. In other words, lots of planes. We were able to go through most of the commercial airliners and AF One.

About 15 minutes into the ride home, this was the scene in the back seat.

Back at home she perked up. Momma made some chocolate chip cookies for an early birthday party with Gramps. I had found a nice jigsaw puzzle at the Museum store for her so we set to work on that after singing happy birthday.

Hmmm, can’t find the picture. Maybe tomorrow. I got up this morning and drove across the state to Spokane. I am now safely ensconced in a bedroom at Peter and Nanci’s. We took a nice drive this afternoon out Palouse HIghway. The fields, some of which were newly planted with winter wheat, were lit up nicely by the setting sun. About half the sky was clear, while the other half was turning all kinds of colors.

Rosalie and me day 2

The only rough spot we had was last night at bed time, she had trouble because she missed her “Mommy and Daddy.’ All I could do was validate her feelings but repeat that they weren’t here and weren’t going to be here until tomorrow (today).

The last few days, she’s been up pretty early. As soon as she hears some noises downstairs, there she is! Although I had some trouble sleeping – I didn’t want to take a pill as the only adult in the house – I slept a reasonable amount and was still up a little after 6. About 7:15, I went back upstairs to check on her. I thought for sure she’d be playing in her room, but she was still conked. I laid down in my bedroom next door and she came in about 7:45.

Because Emma came over yesterday, my plan for going to the grocery store didn’t pan out. In retrospect, I could have gone while she was next door but I didn’t think of it until later. We were out of milk, which meant breakfast was dicey as both of us are cereal people. So, at 7:45 I suggested that we go out for breakfast. That perked her up!

Due to more confusion on my part, we missed the more traditional cafes in favor of the bakery. Actually, once she got a look at the bakery she wouldn’t go back to the cafe. I was able to get a slice of quiche for myself and limit her to a croissant with a glass of milk. She did notice the ham pieces in my quiche and eat a bunch of them.

At the grocery store, she insisted we take a cart so she could ride hanging onto the front. Besides milk, we stocked up on red pears, avocados and tomatoes. Back at home, we finally had our bowls of cereal for the morning.

Then it was upstairs for play school. She put her witch fairy costume on and tried several hats on me while preparing first breakfast, then packing snack and lunch for me to take to school. She was the Momma and the teacher. Eventually there was tickling. Then we came back downstairs for some coloring and letters and more puzzles. We were doing the USA puzzle for the second time when Ashley came home. That still lies incomplete as lunch was more interesting. Then Mommy enforced a real rest time and I was relieved.

I’m pretty pleased that I didn’t resort to the TV solution during my 24+ hours in charge. Jeremy and Ashley had told me the codes and what channels were ok. Rosalie makes it easier to leave it off as it’s not a priority for her. She didn’t ask me once to turn it on.