Tag Archives: Dad

Dad’s story

I don’t remember exactly how this came up. It was probably related to all the contact with relations that Sepi had on Nowrooz.

She was aware of my cousins in Germany. I had told her of my trip there in 2017 and I had said that any trip we would take to Europe would have to include a visit with them.

Just the other day, she was asking what was the exact relationship that I had with these people so I told her about how Zacharias Hangauer had left Germany and came to America in 1869, married and had a family that included my grandmother. This led naturally to questions about how I knew of the German relatives.

I was astounded that I hadn’t told her the story before. It is one of my all-time favorites.

I present it here in full.

My Search For Unknown Kin
by Bernard J. Wood

How it Came About

In September 1975, I had the opportunity to attend a conference on surface science held at the University in Namur, Belgium. Nancy and I had often talked about visiting Europe, and this seemed to be the time to make our oft-discussed visit a reality. A three-week visit was reasonable, within the constraints of our family responsibilities and our financial resource. The conference in Namur occupied two weeks, so we had one full week to do sightseeing on our own in Western Europe.

When we looked at the travel guides and maps we realized that 52 weeks would hardly be enough to visit every place we wanted to see! We had to make the hard decision to limit our excursion to a few places. The principal limitation became geography; we didn’t want to spend all of our time traveling, so we chose three places that were reasonably close together, yet had some special meaning for us.

We selected Amsterdam, because two friends live there; one is a young woman, Johanna (Honny) M., who was an exchange student in our community a number of years ago; the second is Rutger van S. (and his family) who spent a year at SRI as a visiting scientist.

We chose Paris for the same reason: George A. is an old friend from SRI, and Mike and Trish C. and their family moved away from our parish in the middle ‘60’s. And besides, everyone wants to see Paris!

Our third choise was somewhat off-beat and very personal. The twin towns of Berkastel-Kues, located on the Mosel River in Germany, were the home of my ancestors in my mother’s family. I knew from conversations with my late Aunt Elizabeth that my grandfather Hangauer had emigrated from Bernkastel-Kues sometime around the middle of the 19th century. Indeed, Elizaceth had given me and old souvenir book of the Mosel Valley which showed photographs of Bernkastel-Kues. We had no inkling that any living kin resided in this region at the present time, for noe of my aunts in the American Hangauer line, whom I had know, had ever mentioned the existence of living relatives in Germany. Nevertheless, the reasonably convenient location of Bernkastel-Kues and its connection with my ancestors compelled us to include it in our itinerary.

The Journey to Bernkastel-Kues

On Tuesday morning, September 16, we boarded the Lorelei Express in Amsterdam and commenced a four-hour rail journey into Germany to Koblenz, where the Mosel flows into the Rhine. There we transferred to a Paris-bound train that took us west to the town of Wengerohr, where we again changed trains, this time to an inter-urban type of local that terminated its run in Bernkastel-Kues.

Bernkastel-Kues are twin towns situated on opposite banks of the Mosel, and connected by a bridge. Both are nestled into the hillsides that rise rather steeply from the river’s edge. The vineyards that cover the hills reveal the principal industry of these towns; winemaking. The second industry is tourism. Bernkastel-Kues is a resort area where people come to hike, breathe the fresh air and relax in the sun. the towns have the appearance of classic Alsatian villages, with narrow, winding, cobblestone streets lined with gabled houses constructed of wood and masonry. The village square in Bernkastel looks as if it might have been designed and built by Walt Disney; a perfect stereotype and perfectly charming!

We stayed in a hotel in Bernkastel called Doktor-Weinstuben. The name had nothing to do with the medial arts; it referred to a tavern wherein the famous Bernkasteler-Doktor wine was kept and served!

The Search

We spent the evening exploring the town and the shops. Next morning we inquired of the hotel clerk about the name Hangauer. He indicated there were people with that name in town, but he didn’t know whether they had been around very long, or if they had any connection with Hangauers in America. He suggested we visit a famous historical library in Kues, called the Cusanus Stift, where we might obtain some genealogical information. Unfortunately, the Cusanus Stift was not open until 3:00 p.p., so we had to pursue our inquiry through another channel.

Examination of the street map of the town revealed a number of churches with adjacent graveyards. We walked to the nearest one and looked for the name Hangauer on the grave markers. But we drew a blank. So we walked a few blocks to the next churchyard, St. Briktius, and repeated our scan. Here we found a simple wooden cross with the inscription “Hans Jos. Hangauer”.

The pastor’s house was the next logical place to visit, but the location wasn’t obvious. There was no indication of the priest’s residence in the vestibule of the church. We stepped out onto the street and looked about. Houses and small stores, but no sign or symbol that would identify a parsonage was in view. A woman, however, was leaning out a first stroey window of a nearby house. I approached her. “Guten morgan, meine Frau. Bitte, wo ist das Hause auf der Pastor?”, I said in my rudimentary German. The woman understood me, however, and spewed-out directions in a cascade of words, only a few of which I understood. “Langsam, langsam”, I pleaded, and she repeated her directions more slowly, pausing at strategic points to make sure I understood. “ Auf den Strasse, lenks . . . , richt, . . . ober den Eisenbahn . . .”

It was several blocks distant, and after we had come to the vicinity of the house, we were still unable to identify it. A young mother with two children in tow, approached us on the street. I repeated my inquiry to her. She nodded, then directed her smaller child to take us to the pastor’s house, which turned out to be just a half-block away. We rewarded the young guide with a coin, then rang the bell. The priest came to the door. “Sprechen Sie Anglais?” “Nicht.”

Ach! So I launched into my inquiry with what surely was quite vulgar German: “Meine Name ist Bernard Wood. Ich auf Amerika gekommt. Die Name auf meine Mutter ‘Hangauer’ war, und ihr Vater auf Bernkastel-Kues in achtzehn-hundert-sechzig or siebenzig getreben . . .” The pastor listened patiently, then invited us in. He went to a file and removed a few cards. Then he explained that although he had several Hangauers in his parish, he had no idea whether they were related to a person who emigrated to America in the mid-nineteenth century. However, there were tow sisters, unmarried, who were born around the turn of the century and would surely be able to remember if an uncle had emigrated to the USA. He gave us their names, Anna and Cilli Hangauer, and directed us to their home, just a few blocks away. We thanked him and proceeded directly to Goethestrasse 24.

The Discovery

The bell brought a white-haired woman to the door. I began again my spiel, prefacing my inquiry with Pastor Störmer’s name to lend some kind of respectability to my presence at her door. The woman was not impressed, and with a puzzled look protested that she knew of no relatives living in America. I had decided that my inquiry was futile, that there was no connection between these Hangauers and my grandfather. But before leaving I made a final effort to clarify when and where my grandfather emigrated to the USA. “Aber, meine Grossvater nach Amerika in achtzehn hunderd-siebenzig, in dem Stadt Buffalo in New York getreben!” Just as I was speaking this sentence, the other sister appeared in the front hall. At the word “Buffalo” her face lit up and she rushed to the door. “Buffalo, New York. Ja, ja! Zacharias Hangauer. Ja, ja! Kommen Sie in das Haus!” Then she ran back into the house and up the stairs. Her sister seemed rather bewildered, but led us into the parlor. In a moment, the second sister was back with a box of old letters and photographs. She held up a tintype-like portrait of an old man with a beard. I had seen the very same picture many times before – it was Grandfather Hangauer! Another photo came out of the box: young woman in a white dress. It was my mother, Rose Hangauer, and the picture was a duplicate of a portrait we keep in our own family archives! “Ja, meine Mutter!” I was so excited I could hardly believe the experience was real. I looked at Nancy to verify that we were awake and not dreaming. The Hangauer sisters were likewise excited. Anna spoke rapidly with great animation, and I had to beg her repeatedly to speak slowly. After a short time we settled down to a more calm demeanor, and spoke of many things: about our own family; about the other Hangauer descendants now living in America, and those presently living in various places in Germany; about the beautiful Mosel Valley; about the war (W.W. II) and how it affected the residents of Bernkastel-Kues; about the house in which Cilli and Anna lived, which had been built by their Grandfather Andreas.

Andreas and Zacharias Hangauer were brothers. Andreas’s son, also named Andreas, was born in the same year that Zacharias emigrated to America, 1869. the younger Andreas had 11 children, several of whom still live in various places in West Germany. Four of these children, Hans, Karl, Anna and Cilli, remained in Bernkastel-Kues.

Anna an Cilli served us a luncheon of schwarzbrot, cheese and wine, then showed us their home and garden. We departed from them to take a hike to the castle, Berg Landshut, after promising to return in the evening for supper.

The walk to Burg Landshut on top of the hill above the town was glorious. The day was warm and sunny. The vineyards were in full fruit, as the grape harvest had not yet taken place. And the view of the town and the valley from the castle was magnificent. The ruins of the castle were occupied by a restaurant, so we drank a glass of beer to quench the thirst we had developed during the climb, then returned to the town.

We rang the bell at Goethestrasse 24 about 6:30 p.m. Anna ushered us to their studio dining room and we enjoyed a hearty German meal. Shortly after dinner, Hans Hangauer and his wife, Helena (called Leni), arrived, and we spent a couple of hours looking at old photographs and talking about the Hangauer clan. Hans had cataloged a great deal of information about our ancestors, but he had few facts about the descendants of the American emigre. I was able to supply some information to him. He presented me with copies of letters that Zacharias Hangauer had sent from America to his relatives in Bernkastel-Kues. One of them was written on the day he arrived in New York; a second many years later when he traveled by train to the West Coast.

We then left the home of Anna and Cilli, and walked to Hans’ home. Here we met the youngest son of Hans and Leni: Franz. Franz is a student in his last year at the gymnasium (grade 13 by comparison with U.S. schools), and he spoke English quite fluently. Hans brought out the fine Mosel wine, and we imbibed freely while telling about our children, our experiences and our plans. Franz would like to visit America when he completes his studies next Spring, and we encouraged him to come. We offered him the hospitality of our own home in Northern California, and we suggested that Hangauer descendants located in Buffalo, Denver, and Southern California might be willing to be hosts to him also.

Hans is a civil servant and before we left he presented us with a bottle of fine Kardinalsburg wine to take home. As the hour grew late, we bade goodnight to the Hangauers and thanked them for their kind hospitality. Hans walked with us to our own hotel and pointed out a number of places of interest in the town. Filled with fine wine and warm with gemütlichkeit, we slept soundly.

Our Departure

Our schedule called for us to arrive in Paris the next day, so on Thursday morning we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and went to the bus stop to meet and board the bus to Luxembourg, where we would transfer to an express train to Paris. Before the bus came, I walked to the post office to mail some post cards, and enroute was intercepted by Cilli. She greeted me and presented me with a small package to take home. The package contained a small basket, a hand-made linen doily, a piece of home-baked bread, and a picture of Grandfather Hangauer. We said good-bye, and I felt sad that our encounter had been so short, yet grateful that we had met at all under such improbable circumstances.

Before the bus arrived, Leni walked to the busstop. She had come downtown to do some shopping and stopped to say good-bye again to us. As the bus pulled away, we waved farewell. What a remarkable experience we had! Leaving Bernkastel-Kues was almost like awakening from a dream. Like Brigadoon, Bernkastel-Kues seemed like a place in a fantasy; something that came into existence just for us, and then disappeared forever into the mists.

Epilogue

Bernkastel-Kues and the Hangauers live! Shortly after we returned home, our cousin and neighbor, Mary S. (a great grand-daughter of Zacharias Hangauer) learned she would be sent to Stuttgart, Germany, for a business trip of about a month’s duration. She corresponded with the Hangauers in Bernkastel-Kues, and they invited her to come to visit them. She is now in Germany, and she plans to spend Christmas holidays with the Hangauers in Bernkastel-Kues.

Clark is gone

Clark Ewing, the other grandfather of my children, died this morning. It ‘s been a tough couple of months for Jeremy and Sarah. I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences between the two men.

Clark was three years older and started his family sooner, so he had had his fourth child before I was born. Both men worked hard establishing themselves and their families in the 1950’s and were firmly established in the suburban middle class by the end of the decade. Both came from rather conservative Christian backgrounds and moved to more liberal interpretations as they got older.

Both were active in their respective churches but the nature of their activity reflected their personalities. Dad taught Sunday School and edited the newsletter. Clark led public campaigns.

Dad eventually branched out from the Church activities and became active in the Movie Club and some local charities. Clark was a member of Rotary Club and was prominent in the Toledo YMCA.

I believe Clark’s greatest achievement was his stewardship of the camp run by the Toledo Y in southern Michigan. I tend to refer to it as a ‘summer’ camp, but in reality it was a year ’round operation at the time I came into the family in 1981. Clark had been director for many years by that time. He was passionate about the place and had been instrumental in expanding into its current state. He was not shy about talking about where he thought it should go from there.

Where Dad was solid and careful; a craftsman, with hidden talents, Clark was ebullient and was the first to stand up and say ‘Follow me!’ Perhaps some might say he moved too fast, or reached farther than he could grasp, but he relished the challenge.

At Dad’s funeral, we had a hundred or so people attending. A dozen or so spoke afterwards and were highly complimentary. As word of Clark’s death goes out, there will be thousands of men and women who will reflect back on their experiences with Clark and know how he influenced them positively. Many will travel to Michigan, I predict, to participate in whatever memorial is planned.

Neither is better than the other. We all take our paths in life influenced by opportunity and our own personalities. Both are being mourned by their families and many others. I am the child of my father. He influenced me more than anyone else. Clark showed me another way, and influenced my children profoundly as well. I am happy to have known both men.

I found a little appreciation I wrote about Clark a couple of years ago. Here it is.

24

My mother was about two weeks short of her 24th birthday on the day I was born. My father was about a month from his 25th. Whenever I’ve compared my age to theirs, it’s always been 24 years that I’ve used.

Now Dad is dead. The age comparison, facile as it is, surfaces again. What will my next 24 years be like? I made a bucket list once but I don’t remember where it got to. Should I do another one?

Mom is in relatively good heath. It seems likely that she will survive beyond the next year. What then for my facile comparisons?

I have the daytime off today but must go to work in a couple of hours. I had some ideas this morning of what I could do today but almost none of them have gotten done. I see parallels.

Sepi and I have been talking about taking a trip to Colorado to see Abe and May. I only met them at the wedding and thought they were very nice people. I would like to get to know them better.

It’s possible Mom may come with us and we would all go up to Denver to inter Dad’s ashes there. Sepi and I want to go visit Jeremy and Ashley at their new house. That might be a separate trip or it could be a big circle. The big circle implies two weeks on the road. Do any other sibs want to be in Denver for the interment? When can they get away? Does Mom want to go with us to Washington? Do Jeremy and Ashley want to have such a mob?

All last fall, Sepi and I talked about a honeymoon to Europe in the spring. That would be a minimum two weeks but a month would be better. When can we actually do that? Can we really afford it?

At a certain point, this is all rationalization. Seize the day!

Yes, but in reality we aren’t going anywhere for at least a couple of months. Work tonight, then a couple of days off. Band Monday, dentist Tuesday. The drumbeat of life goes on.

Work this week has been preparing for SoundBox. We opened last night. It was a fairly easy show for sound so I had plenty of time to think about what I was doing there. There are some reasons to give it up but there probably wouldn’t be backsies if I did. It can be freaking awesome. Denise floated an idea the other day that would change my role yet still keep me involved. I’m not sure if, a) I want to do it, b) the symphony would go along, or c) it would work even if the first two conditions were met.

Things to think about.

time and sadness

It’s been ten days since Dad died. Many people have expressed their condolences to me. No doubt many more have done so to Mom and my siblings.

Yet we’re all pretty dry eyed and matter of fact about it – at least in my company. We Wood’s are famously even tempered but this is our father, for god’s sake!

So I’ve been thinking about why. ‘He had a good life.’ ‘He was ready.’ ‘He had been in a long decline and wasn’t really who he had been for a long time.’

That last is kind of my best answer. He really died a long time ago. The weird part is that it wasn’t a clearly defined event like last week. The breathing stops, the heart stops – he’s dead.

But that begs the question of who ‘he’ is. Preparing for the funeral, Tom created a slideshow for people to watch. We started with 20 or 30 pictures but it quickly grew to nearly 100. That was Tuesday. As of yesterday, it was up to nearer 150. We’ll probably keep working on it right up to when we have to leave for the church Monday.

What was interesting to me was that the exercise brought back into my mind the man who raised me – without doubt the most influential man in my life. Over the last four years that man has slowly slipped away.

I can’t help but contrast Dad’s death with the death of Zach. Two people who were as close to me as anyone could be and yet my reactions couldn’t have been more different. The circumstances were vastly different, of course, so that must be why.

The time that has passed since Zach’s death has muted my feelings. Life goes on. I still get angry about the actions of the two drivers and will approach the DA once more about reopening the case. But the overwhelming sadness that I felt for months afterwards hasn’t shown up for Dad.

The funeral is Monday. We’ll see how that goes.

Norm

I met a lot of new people last spring as Sepi and I were beginning our life together. One of them was Norm. Norm was married to a woman who had been City Manager when Sepi was Mayor.

Norm’s posture was quite stooped over in a way that reminded me of Dad so I started to talk to him about it. Unlike Dad’s, his condition had come up rather suddenly the previous fall. As recently as a year previous, he had been in robust health and was quite active.

I don’t remember if he knew at the time what it was. More likely he just didn’t tell me that it was ALS.

Norm died last week.

I only saw Norm one other time. It was at a birthday party a few weeks later. In that short time he had deteriorated markedly. He was having great difficulty holding his head up and speaking. In that first conversation, though, we bonded in a mysterious way. When Sepi shared the news of Norm’s death with me, I got choked up in a way that I didn’t with Dad.

Sepi talked to Robin yesterday. She said Robin told her how Norm had read my blog regularly and how much he had enjoyed it.

Thank you, Norm! Your friendship was brief but brilliant. Rest in Peace.

Dad’s passage

Dad died yesterday morning. He hadn’t eaten nor taken water for several days so it was not unexpected. At some level, we are all relieved. The phrase I used on FaceBook was ‘His torment is over.’

‘Torment’ might be a bit overstated. He never complained of pain, although in truth his ability to communicate was pretty much entirely gone. He would sometimes react to our attempts to move him by making a grunt of pain. Towards the end of last week he was not sleeping well and twitching a lot.

‘Torment’ could also be applied to Mom’s experience. It was bad enough to be losing her husband of nearly 66 years but her home was being invaded by not only her children but her children’s spouses, hospice nurses and technicians and other helpers and visitors. She will have to endure that for a while longer – ten of us were there yesterday – but hopefully she will be able to sleep better. We’re back to the dilemma we had with Dad: how do we respect their independence yet give them help when needed? This is especially difficult when they say they don’t want the help.

So, we muddle through as always. We do it for love, which helps.

Mom called me at about 5 with the news. The phone ringing woke me from a deep sleep and my original reaction was irritation. I had been getting a lot of sales calls lately so that was my first thought. When I saw ‘Mom’ on the phone, though, I knew what it was about.

We got down to Santa Clara about 7. Tom and Mary Lou had been staying over so they had been with Mom. The hospice nurse had come over right away and done some minimal clean up. He was lying in the bed as he had been but he was still. His mouth had a slight smile, we all thought.

Teresa and Jane got there a little later. Teresa wanted to clean him more thoroughly so she did that. Mom and Dad had made arrangements long ago with Trident for cremation and they were coming at ten so we all took some time before that for reflection and community.

The Trident people were respectful but professional. They were in and out of the house in less than ten minutes. We were left with memories only.

So the rest of the day was about memories. Mary got there about 1. Julian and Lisa came. Sarah came. We all sat around and ate and reminisced. We talked about funeral arrangements and other quotidian things. There were some tears but a lot of laughter.

death watch

I’ve had this title in my mind for a couple of weeks now. Like many other things, I’ve seen it before but now I am experiencing it. It’s strange that after a lifetime of trying to preserve health – holding death at bay, as it were – we are allowing death to have its way. It’s also strange that I am personifying death. That’s what humans do, though, to try to understand what is fundamentally not understandable.

Well, anyway, death came to Dad yesterday morning. I’m going to try make a separate post about that. This is a snippet I wrote on my phone Sunday that speaks to the watch part.

It’s Sunday January 20th and the family is gathering at Mom and Dad’s to celebrate Sarah and Jack’s birthdays. Dad is at the end, though. He hasn’t had any food for several days and very little water. Teresa and Mom gave him a small dose of morphine this morning. Previously the heaviest pain medication was Tylenol. He had been very restless the 24 hours previously. He was sleeping soundly when Sepi and I got here about 12:30. He woke up a little about 1. He seemed to recognize Mary and tried to respond to her. Now (2 pm) he’s sleeping again but his breathing is labored. He sort of half clears his throat every minute or so. Mom was sitting with him but I relieved her so she could eat lunch. Mom went to the church yesterday to make arrangements for the funeral Mass and reception. She is definitely ready for this to be over.

Dad

The other news this new year is about Dad. The week before Thanksgiving he was out with Mom and tried to get out of the car on his own and fell. Mom had gone into the store with the understanding – her understanding – that Dad would wait for her.

It was a perfect example of how we are all living in the past to some extent with Dad. He thought – as near as we could later find out – that he was to go in as well. He got out of the car and promptly fell. A passer by saw him and called 911. His injuries were not severe but in the course of examination at the ER, a chest X-ray was taken revealing a golf ball sized ‘mass’ in his lung.

Normally a biopsy would be conducted to verify what this ‘mass’ was but neither Dad nor any other member of the family was in favor of it. It would be very stressful and the likelihood was that it would in fact be cancerous. That begged the question of what would be the next step. Surgery, radiation, or chemo? No, the consensus was to let it go.

At the same time, the doctors said there were some ‘abnormalities’ in his blood work. My own view of the progression of information was a bit skewed as I was busy working during those first days but about a week later I asked Mom what she had been told.

Leukemia.

The doctors recommended we begin hospice care. It took a while for me to figure out what this exactly means. Evidently, this implies that life expectancy is 6 months. Kaiser brought a hospital bed and some medicines and supplies to the house but the extra care Mom needed was not part of the deal. She had to call providers and set up a schedule.

Of course all of the children were involved in all of this. My own help was minimal but all of my siblings made major contributions to the changes. Teresa, Mary and Tim are in the medical field in various ways and were able to understand what the doctors were saying. We all came to the house and filled in the cracks of care.

Mom has gone from having help 4 hours a day 3 days a week to 12 hours a day 5 days a week. Only a small part of the cost is covered by insurance. To save money, we sibs have promised to cover the weekends.

Dad’s only indication that he is in pain is when he is being moved out of the bed. He doesn’t say anything but we notice the strain in his face. As far as I know the only medication he is taking is a stool softener. He still uses the walker to get down the hall to the living room. He likes to watch football on TV. He eats meals in the dining room. He listens to the conversation around him and occasionally tries to say something but he cannot construct sentences any more.

Mom had his favorite priest come and say Mass for him. He also got the Sacrament of the Sick. I believe this is the same as what we used to call Extreme Unction, or Last Rites. Mary actually got him out to Church on Christmas Eve which he enjoyed.

As for the future, death awaits us all. Dad is likely closer than the rest of us. We are doing our best to make his remaining days as comfortable as possible.

numbers

This past week I was going to write a post on numbers: 3, for years since Zach died. 53, for speed of the truck that killed him. I still want to write to the DA and try to get the case reopened. Every time I stand on a sidewalk and watch traffic speeding by I think of how fast they are going. Sometimes I estimate they are going about 50 and I think how it would feel to be slammed against their windshield.

53 is pretty fucking fast for a city street and it’s no wonder Zach was killed instantly. When I went back to Baton Rouge last January, very few cars were going that fast along that little stretch. I think both drivers were driving recklessly and should be cited appropriately.

But I haven’t written that yet. Sepi reminded me that I had told her last summer I was going to let it go. I don’t remember that. I just remember that i want to try one more time.

Meanwhile, Dad was out last Wednesday with Mom and fell when she wasn’t looking. 911 was called and they spent the afternoon in the ER. Blood tests and X-rays showed no serious damage to his bones but revealed a mass in his lung. The doctor say she’s 99% sure it is cancer. Te be sure involves a biopsy and the consensus is to not do that.

Coincidentally, Tim came to visit Thursday so we were able to get 4 of the 6 of us in the same room as Mom and Dad to discuss what to do. Dad didn’t say much of anything. We’re not sure how much he understands but he really doesn’t want to spend another afternoon like Wednesday.

The doctor talked of hospice which evidently can be triggered by a six month time frame. Now we’re all coming to terms with the likelihood that, instead of wasting slowly away from Alzheimers, Dad will be dead much sooner.

Everyone was pretty calm Friday when were all discussing this but I feel sure that we are all in some kind of denial.

We will all gather again on Thanksgiving. We will rejoice in what we have and what we have had.

the best moment

Last night as she was about to leave the reception, Ashley asked me what was the best moment of my day. I really couldn’t think of just one. It was all fantastic – in every sense of the word. In the past couple of weeks, I had used the analogy of the roller coaster ratcheting up the incline before the first drop. Well, yesterday was the drop.

And, like a roller coaster ride, it seemed like it was over before I knew it.

I told her the moment when she and Jeremy pulled into the parking lot at Davies Hall was big. It meant that they were safely there. They were the last of my posse to arrive.

But there were so many more: standing under that dome on that staircase, looking into the soulful eyes of Willie Brown as he spoke those solemn words of commitment; having Ashley tell me that the song the band was playing was the song that she and Zach sang at her wedding reception using kitchen utensils as microphones; hearing the trio start as we were still down at the bottom of the stairs taking pictures; having so many people come up to me to say how happy I looked an how happy they were for me; it was all great.

(Thanks to Lolly Lewis for this photo.)

This morning I remembered a moment that I could honestly say was the best. At the reception, it was pretty chaotic. People came in bit by bit and there was a lot of milling around while they found their seats. And of course everyone wanted to talk to us. We hadn’t set up a reception line. Then I started to hear people say they were hungry and when was the food coming out. This was near to 7:30 and the food was just then starting to come out.

I went and started filling a plate for Dad but Sepi came to me and said, wait, there must be a toast. then there followed several minutes of confusion while we looked for the champagne, the best man, the band. I got a little grumpy about then because I just wanted to let people eat.

Finally it was decided that we could do the best man toast later. All I had to do was welcome everyone and say that the food was ready. I can do that.

So I tapped on the glasses and the room started to settle down. I don’t remember if I spoke first to welcome everyone but there was cheering and I raised my arms and pointed to the ring on my finger and the cheering intensified.

That was the moment.

I spoke a little bit and Sepi said some nice things, but soon everyone was digging in to the excellent food and the party moved into high gear.