Sharing the table

Tracking PixelThis is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Barilla, but opinions are my own.

My beloved and I distinctly remember the moment.  We were sitting at our dinner table in our first wee home. We locked eyes, and said to each other: “We’re ready.”  Ready, finally, to take the leap from where we were – a family of two committed people – into the inky unknown of two-plus.  If we were the luckiest people in the world, we would be led into that unknown by a few small people we could call our children.

Turns out we were indeed the luckiest people in the world.  My beloved’s will and bodily fortitude coupled not just with my own love and dedication, but with the courage and generosity of two old friends. One of them had a great idea (use my husband as your donor!), and the other of them (said husband) had great genes and an open heart.

Plenty of talking followed at each others’ dinner tables over the course of several months: we were proposing, after all, that we join our two families together with a uniquely powerful bond: children, our own and each other’s. There could be no knowing what that would feel like, yet also no going back.

#ShareTheTable

Of all the things that define our family, this non-nuclear beginning will always be one of the things I cherish most. Our children are quite literally the products of the best of what humans can do with and for each other.  They are precious harvest not just of love and will,  but also courage and generosity, and trust on all four of our parts. Without all these ingredients together, my beloved’s and my children simply wouldn’t exist.

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Amazing

Grace
Streetsign near my new place of employ, San Francisco, CA.

Finis unius diei est principium alterius, as the Romans used to say, when they existed and spoke Latin to one another daily.  Or, to the rest of us: the end of one day is the beginning of another. Thus, at the beginning of the year, do I close one looong chapter between (sufficiently paying) jobs, and with unbridled glee and gratitude, begin a fresh one.  Come Monday morning, I’ll be combed and pressed and striding into a building spitting distance from this sign, which I take as a very good sign indeed.

 

 

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Let’s keep the moral arc bending toward justice

drmlkjr

“Martin Luther King Jr, Birmingham Alabama, 1963,” by Ernst Haas.

Quiet here of late, getting accustomed to resuming ordinary life, offline and on, in the wake of my dad’s return whence he came 92+ years ago.  The picture above and the links below repeat a post some years back in honor of the Revered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life has been such an inspiration to me.

Inspiration how? I came of political age working all my spare collegiate hours in a student group entitled the Martin Luther, King, Jr. Convocation Day Committee (lovingly referred to as the MLKCDC). When I dropped out of school for a nine month period, these spare hours numbered just about every hour beyond those spent at my job or learning how to be a lesbian with my sweetie, who was also a member of the group, conveniently. Every one of us had to read several of his books as a condition of membership, which means now that my bookshelf sports most of his oevre in original hardbacks, thankyouverymuch. It also means I am conditioned not just to parrot the lines of Dr. King’s greatest speeches, but to locate them in context. So: “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice” comes from Dr. King’s “How Long? Not Long” speech (sometimes also referred to as “Our God is Marching On”), delivered on the steps of the Montgomery, AL state capitol at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March on March 25, 1965.

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Almost-seven

dramabeard
Self-bearded, blade-of-grass-chewing almost-seven-year-old, Berkeley, CA.

Today is the last day he’s six. He gets more complex and mysterious by the year. So mysterious that I can’t even write about it.

 

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Let’s try this again, shall we?

2013-Jo
Out with the old.

2014-Mac
In with the new.

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Portrait, in absentia

dadonthecouch
Dad on the couch, Berkeley, CA

 

 

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Home, lost and found

lastThanksgivingLast Thanksgiving with Dad, 2012, Berkeley, CA.

 

Twenty years ago last month, I was in the daze of my first weeks without my mother. I had been attending San Francisco Lesbian Avenger meetings during the summer, and then dropped off during the weeks before and after her early September death.

Finally I called fellow Avenger Masha Gessen.  I had to acknowledge what had become evident: that I wasn’t going to be able to come through with whatever commitment I had made at the last meeting I attended – back when I knew my mother was mysteriously ailing, but didn’t know it was a terminal metastasis of her breast cancer, in its final stages.

I told Masha what had just happened ­– that my mother had died a week or two back, and that all I could do was struggle each day to remember how to breathe and sip and swallow and walk.  Masha said: “Come over. My mother died less than a year ago. Breast cancer. Come over right now.” I was staying at my parents’ place in the East Bay, and Masha was in San Francisco.  It was late in the evening already, but something in her tone told me I needed to go.  I was spinning in an abyss, and her voice was the first thing I had encountered that sounded like it might arrest the spinning, maybe even establish a marker by which I could begin to navigate deep space.

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Ninety-two things about my dad

THP-portrait-1940-50Dad died a week ago today, at 92. What follows is more hagiography than exposé; forgive me. Many factoids are wobbly around the edges. This is just my own vision. If you knew him, you may find much familiar, but I’m sure your mileage will vary. Also many of these are more anecdote than “thing.” As a result, this is the longest post I’ve ever published here, so it’s divided into five discrete pages. For the rest of the month, if and when I post,  I may just publish Pops stories from the LD archives. Ninety-two years here, with a generous surplus in the “love” column: it’s the least I can do.

 

92. Dad was born in 1921 in Seattle, Washington to Jessie Harsha and Edwin Pagenhart.  His mother hailed from the Ohio River Valley (her people were Scottish and English), his father from the South Dakota prairie (his people were German immigrants). They each skipped the small towns they grew up in for thrills far afield.

91. His family was in Seattle because his father was captain of the U.S.S. Lydonia, a survey vessel for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, and he was charting the Alaskan coastline in the region of Ketchikan. Not long after he was born, Dad’s family relocated for a short while to Berkeley, about a dozen blocks north from where I live now. Thereafter they returned to Washington, D.C. and Chesapeake Bay, MD, places Dad would as likely consider home as any.

USS Lydonia, a survey vessel, skippered by Dad's father at the time of his birth. [Wikimedia Commons]

USS Lydonia, a survey vessel, skippered by Dad’s father at the time of his birth. [Wikimedia Commons]

90. Either the greatest number of years or the most memorable ones of his childhood were spent in Manila, where his father directed the mapping of the waterways around the Philippine Islands for the Coast Survey. Here is his earliest memory, as he jotted it down in one of a multitude of unfinished wisps of autobiography:

The only thing I can remember on my own during those Manila days before I was three: looking eye-to-eye into the face of a Filipino girl or boy from the back seat of our car as we passed the big open front window of her house (nipa), must have been stopped for a moment because we looked straight at each other. She was resting on her arms and we only stared in casual close glance about three or four feet from each other as the car moved onward. That’s all I recall of my first memory of the living world. But it took place just at the end of Dewey Boulevard [ed note: since renamed Roxas Blvd] as Manila turned into the Filipine suburb of Pasay and the road became dirt instead of pavement… auto traffic continuing south had to make its way along a winding street between houses of Filipine nipa and bamboo construction so it would explain a sudden slowdown in driving, allowing me, held in someone’s arms and looking out, to gaze into the calm face of a little girl returning the gaze.

His family returned to D.C. for a number of years, but were back to Manila again in the mid-1930s.

89. He has outlived his younger and his older sister, each of whom were very dear to him, in very different ways. Younger sister first: cancer. Older sister only just last year.

88. Every day when he returned home from his younger sister’s bedside during her short, intense cancer decline, he would walk in the door, put down his things, sit down at the piano, and play song after song, as if he were Scheherazade’s accompanist, each new tune somehow keeping his sister alive another day. He steadfastly held out for a miracle (literally: a “miracle”) up until the 11th hour. “Hope springs eternal” being his operable motto. Duly noting: this was the first family cancer death of three, each as close as possible to him.

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