May 20th, 2011 | 3 Comments »


Hack.  The phonetic name he chose in deference to the imbeciles at Immigration who had no hope of understanding or correctly pronouncing his given name.  (He was and always has been the quintessential snob.)

“By Asian standards you are rude –understandable because you don’t know any better. –HCK, 20 April 2011”

Elegant. Charming. Original. Eccentric. Genius.  Fierce. Proud. Stubborn. Loyal.  Mystic. Recluse. Gourmet.

He didn’t refer to us as his children, but his descendants, my six brothers, two sisters, and I.  We are his descendants, and we collectively have six sons and four daughters, who in turn have three sons and two daughters.  We are his tribe, we are his clan.  In this he died a very wealthy man.

I’m starting to recognize my interesting and difficult personality is in many ways shaped by his.  I often wished that we could have had a better relationship, any relationship for that matter, but as well I can see that the very things that prohibited any sense of closeness are the things that contribute to the strength of who I am today.

From him I learned an appreciation for the finer things in life;  the best cup of tea, daffodils, garden fresh food, bone china, crystal, good leather, hard bound books.  Despite our poverty, he was impeccably dressed and always elegant, with a timeless sense of style.

From him I learned the joy of culinary adventures with exotic and intense explosions of flavor like kimchee, curry, and wasabi.

I hope the last moments were without fear or terror.  I hope he went peacefully.

I hope my brothers and sisters are mourning him gently, that their farewells are peaceful and without regret.  I hope the same for his brothers and sisters.

I’ve missed him most of my life, and now he’s gone forever.

My dad.

7 March 1926 – 19 May 2011


Posted in family, me, parents, sorrow
April 6th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

Hayfever bites the big one.  When the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and daffodils are bursting with color, one might think such glory would be cause for jubilation.  And it would, if it weren’t for this wretched lack of tolerance for so many varieties of pollen.  Bah.

It’s going to be a very busy work week.  It was going to be busy anyway, with Athos out on vacation, but now Porthos is out for the week as well, with a family matter.  Which leaves me (Aramis*) to hold down the fort.  All of it. And I tend to have a full workload of my own anyway, and even more so this week due to an impending major deadline.  That’s the flip side to specialization.  With very few backups, occasionally one is left holding the bag.  I am glad to have a bag to hold, though.

Part of me is wrestling over the weaning decision.  How I look forward to life beyond the pump, yet, at the same time, I almost don’t want to stop.  Maybe because it marks the end of a path I’ll never walk down again.  I won’t be having another child.  I won’t be making milk again.  I will be wistful, when it’s time to close that door.  I’m wistful now, just thinking of it.

There is also a part of me that is trying not to be afraid.  I thought LB’s lower back looked a bit more hunched than I remember BB’s looking at that age, and inquired about it at his 6 month well-child checkup.  His doctor didn’t think it seemed too unusual, but ordered an x-ray as a precautionary measure.  The report came back with some frightening words and we were referred to a specialist.   When we got there, the diagnostic imaging service had put the wrong x-rays on the CD (it’s all digital these days), so the specialist couldn’t look at them.  He said that we could take more, or reschedule for a later date, since he wanted to order an ultrasound anyway, to look at the kidneys and thereabouts.  I chose to reschedule.  I don’t want to bombard my baby with any more radiation than absolutely necessary.  He also mentioned that an MRI might be needed, but I don’t want to make that decision until we have more information from the ultrasound results, and the evaluation of the x-rays.  With an infant, an MRI requires general anesthesia, and I don’t want to put him through that unless it’s necessary.  Anyhow, there are many hanging questions, and there may be nothing at all wrong, which is my deepest hope.  I’m doing my best not to allow myself to worry over the what ifs until or unless there is cause.  But it’s very hard for me.   I’m not so good at letting things roll.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve been feeling a bit melancholy of late.  Consequently, I’ve been overly indulgent with the food scene.

I’ve also been feeling more aware of my age, for some reason.  I don’t feel old, per se, but I clearly remember thinking how old my own mother was when she was 42, and here I am, 44.  When she was 42, I was in college, and had made the decision to give up the big V, being that I thought I was an adult and all.  She wasn’t very happy about that news, when I shared it with her.  That was the end of our mother-daughter-friend-friend relationship, which in retrospect was mostly a sham anyway, initiated by me under some self-imposed sense of what a mother-daughter relationship should be like.


Anyway.  She was 42 and I was ‘grown up.’  I’m 44, and I have a baby.  Different worlds.  Different generations.  In my world, now, I’m going to try to be a real friend to my boys.  To listen.   To hear.

This means, of course, that I need to get over myself, so I can be there for them.  Not so easy.  At least, not for me.  Else I’d have managed it by now.  Getting over myself, being 44, and all.


*Okay, so I watched Slumdog Millionaire this weekend, and it’s fresh in my mind.  Excellent movie.

June 13th, 2006 | 1 Comment »

If I were a better daughter, I’d put a card in the mail.  I thought about it, and thought about what I’d say.  I’m always careful to get the blank write-your-own-note kind, or the kind that wishes well without undue emotion.  It would be laughable to send something that said “World’s Greatest Dad.”

Usually I do send something.  I write a brief note comprised of small talk, and enclose a picture of his grandson, in the off chance that he might think, “Oh lookie here.  What a fine lad.  Now isn’t that nice ”  As if that would ever happen.  Ever.

Sometimes I call.  It’s not usually unpleasant, but there’s not much warmth or genuine interest, on his part.  Or mine, if I’m to be completely honest.

“You will RESPECT me!  Because I’m your father!”  I can still hear those words, thundered at me, so many years ago.  And my impassioned reply, “Respect is EARNEDIt. Doesn’t. Happen. Automatically.”  (I quite possibly may have shrieked that retort.)

Teenagers.  The things they say.

I recently learned that he doesn’t trust me.  It came as quite a surprise.  He thinks that I am in “cahoots with my mother”.  I’m not sure what designs she has, but apparently, I share them.

I do love him.  Because he’s my dad.  I admire him, even, for many things.  Intellectual accomplishments and pursuits.  Sense of style.  Culinary finesse.  I just wish that he knew how to be impartial in loving his children.  I wish that he had been kind.  To all of us.  Not just the fair-headed ones. 

They don’t quite understand.  (The fair-headed ones.)  They resent(ed) him too, for showing favoritism.  Even as small children they could recognize the blatancy.  They hated the unfairness and despised the doting.  Even so, they didn’t (and don’t) really know what it’s like to be one of the others.  One of the unfavored ones.  Like me.  Like my departed brother.  Like most of my brothers.

Some might say that I was a favored one.  Mom’s favorite one.  I admit that there was a time when I tried, valiantly, to befriend her.  I gave it my best effort.  In my idealistic and impassioned youth, aforementioned, I arrived at the thought that it was important for parents to know their kids, and finding it an impossibility with my dad, I tried with my mom.  I don’t think anybody else tried, and if, for that, I’m considered a favorite…  …Then perhaps I am.  Or was.  I don’t think so, though.  She was heroic in her efforts to run damage control over my dad’s blatant favoritism.  She tried so hard to make things as fair as she could, as fair as she knew how.  I admire her for that, and for other things as well.  Creative accomplishments and pursuits.  Ability to make ends meet that couldn’t possibly meet.  Somehow she managed. 

We had a falling out of sorts.  I was still a teenager, but I was in college, and had decided I was an adult, and was therefore ready.  For.  Sex.  That was the end of our closeness, our hours and hours of talks.  There’s more to that chapter, but this isn’t the time.  I’ve been thinking much lately of starting an entry that I will call “Chapters of my life”.  Maybe later, or possibly sooner, I’ll garner the courage to open that book.  It’s all so narcissistic, isn’t it

I write this only for myself.  To get it out.  It’s my own form of therapy.  I don’t want to offend my siblings, my parents, my family.  Any of them.  I love them.  Desperately.  All of them.  I mean no disrespect to anyone.  I seek no consolation.  Nor sympathy.  I want simply to voice these thoughts, so that I can eventually find my way out of the mire of emotions and neuroses and issues and memories and ideas and thoughts and attitudes that make me me.  And hopefully, one day, I will wake up and find the new and improved me, a loving, thoughtful, wise, centered, compassionate, together, and mentally sound mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend.

I am trying.

April 4th, 2006 | 4 Comments »

A gift, lovingly made by a dear friend

Young child with dreams
Dream, ev’ry dream on your own
When children play
Seems like you end up alone

Shilo, when I was young
I used to call your name
When no one else would come
Shilo, you always came
And we’d play

The lyrics aren’t the best match, but this song and these words entered my mind when I heard the news.  Someone I love passed away yesterday.  He was my father figure during my teenage years, when I so desperately wanted to matter to my own father.  I found a father figure in my friend’s dad.  He stood in for me when there was a father daughter banquet at school.  He always liked me, just because.  He would tease me and make me laugh.  He would ask me how I was doing.  He was proud of me, even though I wasn’t his kid.  I had the privilege of knowing him for the best of who he was, and it didn’t matter to me that he walked a rough road with his other children, before he came into my life.  My friend, his daughter, was the youngest of six, and the only girl.  She was his baby, and I was her friend.  I could do no wrong.  I looked up to him and admired him for being a man of men.  I respected him and I think that meant something to him.  Perhaps it helped smooth some of his regrets for rough roads of the past, troubles and trials with his own children.  I don’t know.  I just know that I loved him as a dad, and he loved me as a daughter.  I will always remember him and hold him dear, and I think he knows that.  Knew that.

He made me a wind catcher, many years ago.  Twenty five years ago, or more.  It’s been set aside for years and I’ve been meaning to hang it up.  This weekend I finally did.  Sunday.  The day before he died.  I was thinking of him, remembering him, loving him.  Thinking of how he made this with his own hands, for me, for all his children.

Buzz Sawyer.  My Shilo.

Posted in friends, parents
March 7th, 2006 | 4 Comments »

If it’s your dad’s 80th birthday, and you call him to wish him well and ask how he’s been, don’t ask about the diabetes. If he mentions that his toes are numb, and that his quack of a doctor thinks he should see a specialist and start insulin injections, and you say, humbly, that it’s not as bad as it sounds, because you yourself were faced with just such a need. When you say that yes, it’s traumatic at first, and no, it’s not convenient and yes, it is annoying that the necessity exists, but no, it’s not that bad once you get used to it, and yes, it’s worth it if it helps preserve your health and life, don’t feel snubbed if he completely ignores you. Or if he sounds surprised. Oh You had diabetes When did you have diabetes
If you try to explain that one shouldn’t ignore signs like numbness in the toes, and he says you are no better than his quack of a doctor, don’t let it get you down. If you offer to take time off from work to travel 300 miles and take him to the specialist, to which he restates that they are all quacks and the bittermelon he is taking now will surely put all things back into balance, you might want to let the conversation end. But if you are a fool and try to reach past the denial, because you are truly concerned, because you’ve had this conversation before, a year ago, and the toes were numb then, and dare you mention that one could lose ones toes, if the numbness goes unchecked, and God forbid, you mention the g word (gangrene), and all hell breaks loose and you are called uncharitable and malicious, just like your mother, don’t take it to heart. If he says that you say these things in the guise of concern, just like your mother, but at the core are simply wicked and malicious, just like your mother, and don’t mean well at all, just like your mother, and if he makes reference to being intellectually superficial, just like your mother, ignore it (just like your mother). If he goes on to say more admittedly bitter things, just interrupt and say Happy Birthday in a bright voice, and that you called to wish him well for his birthday. If he says “Bye” and hangs up on you, don’t cry or feel bad. Just know that, all the same, he was delighted to hear from you today. He is 80, after all.

Posted in parents
March 2nd, 2006 | 2 Comments »

Emily Post (1873–1960). Etiquette. 1922.

Chapter XXVII.

Notes and Shorter Letters

Never under any circumstances address a social letter or note to a married woman, even if she is a widow, as Mrs. Mary Town. A widow is still Mrs. James Town. If her son’s wife should have the same name, she becomes Mrs. James Town, Sr., or simply Mrs. Town.

Dear Mom,
I know you mean well, and that you make every effort to be proper and to do the right thing. All that said, I can bite my tongue no longer, and must let you know that I most passionately disagree with Emily Post’s letter addressing etiquette, and would much rather you address me using my own name, rather than that of my husband. Consider it a matter of practicality in this modern age. The only form of identification I have that has my husband’s name on it is my marriage license, and I normally don’t carry that with me. When an item of mail requires a signature receipt, the postmaster must see some form of identification to ensure that the individual receiving the post is, in fact, the intended recipient.

My husband might be able to sign for the letter. Although the postmaster will surely recognize that he is not, in fact, Mrs. Cool Cat Gadget.

I could try to sign for the letter, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m not accustomed to carrying my marriage license with me.

Perhaps the thing to do, to avoid any wasted trips to the post office, is to go together. That way we could explain that I am the Misses and he is the one named Cool Cat Gadget. Ah, but it is not very convenient to visit the post office as a couple. After all, the post office is closed by the time he returns from work, and since he works on Saturday, we can’t go then either. He does have Mondays off, but then I work. If I could make it home on a Monday before the post office closes, I could get my letter.

You see, if you would address the letter to Sueeeus Gadget, there would be no question.

Using my name is no insult to the man I married. Using his name when addressing me is an insult to me. I took his name (in retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t have, considering the hassles this decision has spawned), but I didn’t want to lose myself in the process. Etiquette, schmetiquette! I don’t care what Emily Post has to say on this matter! I wouldn’t mind so much if I received something addressed to Mrs. Cool Cat Gadget from a complete stranger, but when it’s from my own mother (and grandmother), it is most annoying and insulting. I’m sorry to say it, but that is how it is. I am still ME! I am not a shadow of the man I married. He is not my provider, he is not my protector, he is not my guide. He is my partner. Partner! Please. Please use my name.

Sueeeus Gadget

Posted in parents