Monthly Archives: December 2018

First Christmas without him

I sit at the end of the day, remnants of the heat of the fire radiating out of my sock soles. The metal ticks. On the mantle is a framed photograph of three children clambering on their dad, who is on all fours, horsie style. His hair is dark brown and shines a little in the early light from the evening the sky, which is reflected from the water of the bay. The boy is the rider in a yellow raincoat with the hood up, and is grinning as he grips his father’s strong shoulders. A blonde girl  about six years old in a pink striped shirt has her left arm around the boy and balances on the back of her father’s frame, one hand on the round of his right shoulder as her brown eyes look at something higher up, a tree, perhaps. A second girl, a tow-aired toddler, sits on the grass next to them wiping her nose with a tissue. The sun lights up the back of her hair.

Today at the extended family Christmas dinner, there was a sharing time and moment of silence for this father. His twin brother choked up, his sister shared a vision of his being dressed in white and more full of joy than she’s ever seen him, helping her to let him go. I couldn’t speak, but I was thinking of how much he enjoyed his kids and would spend way too much money on them, and how I had enjoyed doing the same in his honor this year.

I drink a toast to you, faithful husband, father, who was here, and is no longer. You always wanted me to drink a little more, to loosen me up. Did you see me buy my first ever bottle of hard liquor today? With it this year of mourning I will take a little careful solace, and perhaps make a little merry at times, with its spirit mixed into the fruits of the garden you helped me build and maintain. In a few months I’ll plant the sweet peas you loved, and maybe you’ll visit me again in the form of a hummingbird. Here’s to sipping the goodness.

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Posted by on December 23, 2018 in Places & Experiences


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They is us.

I didn’t get a tree this year, nor am I hanging up stockings. I am at peace, my remaining son at home is at peace. I’ve strung light over the living room windows and across the mantle, and that is enough. There’s a gas fire to sit by, for now, which, with the fatigue from a full day at a job I enjoy, is all the atmosphere I need in the evenings. Weekends I go for a long walk, run, or bike to the coffee shop and do a little reading and writing, enjoy my latte in a mug and the view of the water.

Last week as I was perusing the shrunken local paper, mostly devoid of local news, a man at the table next to me and I fell to talking, and by the end of the conversation, which came about because, as I see it, he had no wish to make an ongoing human connection, I had heard most of the story of his career and life history. I have no reason to be skeptical of it, other than that he told it so freely, which is unusual, as the only opening to the conversation was his jesting that he had to leave from  the table because he didn’t like to be so near a story about Trump.

He told me was the son of Japanese immigrants who had lost their farm to the war and internment, who had then brought up their son as a field worker alongside them, the only Asians among Latino migrant workers. His family moved to successively larger communities, and he came to be the only one of five who went on to college from his small high school in California. He studied agriculture, then switched to medicine, becoming eventually the head of a pulmonary care unit in a large hospital, bringing it into the top ranks of care and then going on to manage many other units and train others to do the same. He said he was semi-retired and had circumnavigated the Puget Sound area and found he enjoyed this town in which he found this particular coffee shop.

He still felt like an outsider, he said, being Asian in a mainly non-Asian community. I suggested that although there was a genetically derived predisposition in folks to distinguish “us” versus “them” by physical attributes, those distinctions could be largely forgotten as relationships developed on the human social plane. He was skeptical.

We spoke a little of my life history, of my early adult plan to be a an apologist and discipler for Christ among university students, then marrying, raising four children, homeschooling, and spending two and a half years living in Israel as a family. How we had raised our children with a pattern of critical thinking, questioning, always learning, and experiencing life in different cultures as we were able. He commended me for this, and highlighted the value in a continued relationship with my adult children as they made their way in the world and tried to discern what was good and meaningful and how to build a life. I tried to draw a connection between the way my adult sons, especially, enjoy a good debate, and the way “his “guys”, as he called them, would get together to debate and argue. he said it was in the [male] genes. That rang the usual off key jarring note for me. I have so often felt “other” as a woman who wants to engage with ideas, argue and debate from a position of emotional detachment. I said so, and explained that my late husband and I had found through the Meyers Briggs typing system that he, apparently, is a type that was 95% women, and I was a type that was 95% men. The coffee shop acquaintance was skeptical, and even took a slightly patronizing tone, as if I couldn’t understand such things, really. Which, though it irked me at the time, is no doubt true, as in the same way, he could never understand my things. All in the natural order/disorder, I suppose, one of the spices of life, like some women being able to beat some men in arm wrestling.

Yet I said my sons would enjoy talking with him. He was gone within minutes of that. By edging around the boundaries of a conversation that was intended as a random positive encounter between strangers, I was at risk of opening the possibility for connection and complication. I felt that, and my habit is usually to leave it that way, just enjoy the hit-and-run, no real responsibility, clean-cut moments that simply add interest to life–bloggable moments, if you will. But I have also felt an instinct to build bridges, especially where there are none of the usual kind, and one could only imagine, and guess and check, how they might proceed, and whether they may bring regrets. I will sometimes succeed.

My friend, when I texted a brief synopsis to her later, asked if he was handsome. I laughed, thinking, not unnaturally: definitely not–he was short, of slight build, and Japanese with a scraggly beard. My idea of Other. But that’s not how I put it into words, becasue I really didn’t want to package things up in that box.

Not an encounter of that type, I said, feeling guilty for my basic instincts, wondering how they may limit my options of happiness, and wondering if my idea of a mate might take new directions, based on something more lofty and soulful than it is now.


Open Face #1

I hope that librarian I like will come into the coffee shop after she locks up her bicycle — it seems the right time to introduce ourselves.

The fact that it didn’t turn out to be her after all, though same height, kinky sand-colored hair, and glasses, leaves me just wondering why is she a person I would just go up to, after years of brief encounters at the library, mostly just as I passed with by empty book bag into the stacks, or with my pile on the way to the electronic self-check, to say, hello, I wanted to say hello and have a chat, if you don’t mind. I’ve always been curious about you.

Selfish, of course, because I discerned, I think rightly, that she, with her pleasant, intelligent smile, and vibes, even, has sent the message, for many years, “Nice to see you getting books. I love books, too.” I sensed appreciation, and I do like to be appreciated. I venture to admit that it could be my raison d’existence, and hope that the end justifies the means, as my modus operandi is pretty much socially acceptable.

There’s also her intonation. Can’t describe it — I’m not good with sound and rhythm words—but there was a kind of sonic connection that could be derived from an extended phenotype and/or set of values we both share. Care of articulation, quietly animated tone, warmth, a subdued excitement that is the theme of our small city. I think it would be a good conversation. Over a warm drink and with a silver-blue bay stretching out between us and the mounts of Lummi Island.

There will be other days to make a new friend. It’s an especially good season for that, and I am bursting with an especially hopeful and open sense of anticipation. Can you feel it?


Posted by on December 15, 2018 in Relationships