Wednesday, December 31, 2008

186/365: Andrij

A larger than life guy from Ukraine. We met during college. His 12-letter name (which ends with “tkewyc”) is so impossible to pronounce that we always used it for reservations when we went to a restaurant, whether he was there or not! He was our son’s godfather, a university teacher, outdoorsman, faithful to Eastern Rite catholicism, and player of the musical instrument, the bandura.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

185/365: Will

Picking his nationally renowned, drunken father out of bushes as a kid taught him that things are not always what you expect behind closed doors. He developed a phenomenal sense of humor to hide the pain inside, in the fashion of a true Irishman. He’s now 65, and still chasing dreams, not really sure what he wants to be when or if he grows up.

Monday, December 29, 2008

184/365: Ed

We named our oldest son for him. He was a good friend in college, a Russian scholar who ended up becoming a Benedictine monk. We flew to Minnesota for his ordination, bringing our (then) three kids with us. I don’t know why, but we didn’t hear from him after that, not even when our sons died. I was hurt there were no words of comfort.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

183/365: Dara

What fun it was watching this young man start as an actor and grow in stature and ability over his high school years. He is Ray Bolger-ish, with a rubber body and total lack of inhibitions, and always very funny. We were absolutely thrilled to learn that he was the one who won the “Paul Sykes Memorial Scholarship” the year he graduated from high school

Saturday, December 27, 2008

182/365: Fred #4

They thought he was dying. He had been hospitalized and now he couldn’t recover from his mysterious illness, but just stayed in a semi-comatose state most of the time. Cancer? Heart problems? His family didn’t know what to do. Then he finally confessed that it wasn’t water in that ever-present water bottle, but vodka. Amazing how quickly he recovered once he started going to AA.

Friday, December 26, 2008

181/365: Pat and Orrin

They were the first gay couple I ever met. It was the 1940s-50s and they were friends of my grandmother’s, which had to be very unusual for the times. I remember them as fun-loving men. I do remember asking which one was like the woman. But because of our family’s acceptance of Pat and Orrin, I have never thought of gay relationships as unnatural.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

180/365: Victor

Victor came from Zaire to make a new life for himself and bring his family here. He spoke not a word of English, but he lived with us for about six months, while he learned to speak halting English. A very sweet person, who had a close friendship with our son David, and showed up many years later, tears in his eyes, for David’s funeral

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

179/365: The Mourner

When our first son died, she came to offer sympathy. We didn’t know her well, but she was very gracious. But she came day after day, bringing cookies and dog treats and to cry with us. While we appreciated her good heart, it just got to be too much. When our second son died, we asked someone to ask her, nicely, to leave us alone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

178/365: Susie

Never in my life have I known someone with such a low opinion of herself–and how little she deserves it. She is bright, funny, talented, a great mom and teacher. We were thrown together by tragedy and supported each other for years, but as her depression deepened over many years, it just became too wearing to listen to the same whines over and over again.

Monday, December 22, 2008

177/365: RTW

We had so much in common. I never really understood why he came to dislike me so much. Maybe because his partner and I became such good friends. When it was over, I asked for return of an irreplaceable tape I had loaned to him. His response: “Tell her to go fuck herself.” Years later he tried to be pleasant. I just couldn’t do it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

176/365: Michael

He’s afraid of tall giraffes, of some birds, of bears, of pirates, of earthquakes and volcanos, of planes, of insects, of monsters under the bed, and of going to the doctor. Michael is a writer. He is also an artist at Creativity Explored, an art center in San Francisco for people with developmental disabilities, where he has participated since shortly after its inception in 1983.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

175/365: John #3

I was terrified.. He was my first “big time” interview and knew almost nothing about him or his field. A big, bushy-headed man who looked imposing. But he was on the phone when I arrived at his office and as I waited, I spied a book by a woman I admired. That was my jumping off comment and we got along just fine after that.

Friday, December 19, 2008

174/365: June

What a monumental talent. A large woman with a huge voice, magnificent actress. Yet with no sense at all of how popular she was. One of my crowning achievements was arranging to have her honored at a huge theater event. I made 3 very special cakes. She had no idea and I didn’t care. I just wanted to see her get the recognition she deserved.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

173/365: R.E.

I haven’t seen RE since he was a child, but I used to be his babysitter. Today the kid would be diagnosed as having ADD. What a hellion. He and I shared a very scary experience when he was about 2 and I took him to the park. A guy followed us and tried to attack me, but I guess my screams scared him away.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

172/365: Sonia

Our Brasilian daughter. She came as a stranger, moved into our hearts, met the love of her life while living here, and about 5 years later, married him. I was matron of honor. She is one of the most loving people I ever met and I’m sorry that we don’t see each other more often. She helped me learn to speak Portuguese and make feijoada.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

171/365: Park Hyun Joo

This was a little Korean girl I “adopted” through Foster Parents Plan and sent money and gifts to for many years. It bothered me that when she became too old for the program, my sponsorship was just ended, with no opportunity to follow her later. It kind of soured me on sponsorship programs in general, though we did sponsor a few other kids after that.

Monday, December 15, 2008

170/365: Ann #2

We were always better pen pals than face-to-face friends. When her son committed suicide, she told me that what kept her going during that time were my letters. When our son died, I knew she would be the one person who would understand, but she kind of disappeared. It brought back painful memories for her. I never felt the same closeness with her after that.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

169/365: Anja

Poor Anja was a classmate of our daughter-in-law’s in veterinary school and was the vet who put one of our dogs to sleep shortly after our son died. She felt our pain on many levels. Unfortunately, over the next 6 months she had to put down another 2 of our dogs. We shared a lot of pain with those deaths. She was always so caring.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

168/365: Uncle Ernie

Not MY uncle, but Walt’s. The kids loved him and Ned still makes ‘Uncle Ernie’s mashed potatoes” (the family secret is to add an egg, he says). Cooked fabulous barbequed chicken. I only saw him a few times and never really knew him well, but I always enjoyed being around him and was pleased he had a good relationship with our kids. Died of emphysema.

Friday, December 12, 2008

167/365: Norman

I still blush when I remember that I once asked a chorus person if so-and-so was Norman’s daughter because they looked so much alike. I was so naive in those days. Norman was blatantly homosexual and the idea he had a daughter was ludicrous. Such a talented performer who later moved to Canada and ultimately died of AIDS. A great loss to the theatrical community.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

166/365: Joyce

We were best friends in high school and still exchange Christmas cards. She once wrote the very best Christmas letter I ever read – all about the bad things and the mundane things that had happened to her that year. Very funny. We had lunch about 10 years ago, but haven’t seen each other since, though I tried to get a group of us together recently.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

165/365: The Pediatrician

I wish I could remember his name, but he was a fantastic doctor who took care of our kids when they were tiny. But it was the Vietnam era and he had a son of draft-able age, so he ended up giving up his practice and moving his family to an island in Canada, where he owned a house. He was sorely missed here, though.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

164/365: Irma

Irma owned the building that I grew up in. Four flats and a grocery store on a steep hill in San Francisco. She was a large woman who had a closet full of clothes in sizes small, medium and large (many times the same dress in 3 sizes). She and her husband were apparently involved in theater and her walls were completely filled with photographs.

Monday, December 8, 2008

163/365: The Critic

I was a brand new theater critic when I wrote a review of a show I thought was horrible. There were terrible things wrong. A critic for a big newspaper gave it high marks and a great review. I wrote to ask him what he had seen that I missed and he sent back a snide e-mail asking how I dared to question his opinion.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

162/365: The Tall Guy

This is the tallest man I know, even taller than my friend Ron (who is 6'3"). On the surface he seems a very nice, pleasant man, but the things (legal problems and outright betrayal) he has put his family through because of his gambling addiction make it difficult to look at him without inwardly snarling. His wife is a saint for putting up with him.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

161/365: Felix's Sister

Her brother asked a favor–could I host her for a couple of weeks. She was dour, unpleasant and ungrateful. I took her to Marine World ($35 each) because I learned she liked marine life. While there, I bought a statue she seemed to like as a surprise for her. “Why did you waste your money on this?” she asked when I gave it to her.

Friday, December 5, 2008

160/365: Felix

He was from Yugoslavia when we met him, now Croatia. Very nice man, who seemed a bit overwhelmed by the chaos around here, yet we have remained friends. He went on to get a degree at Cal Tech and now runs a B&B in Washington State with his wife. Reading the rigid rules of the B&B, I think we would never feel comfortable staying there.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

159/365: Jane

Our first English-speaking foreign student. Lovely woman. Jeri stayed with her when she visited London. We managed to see her every year somewhere in the world for a long time. Now she works for a pharmaceutical company, married with two kids. We haven’t seen her in about ten years, I think, but her husband writes great Christmas letters that we look forward to each year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

158/365: Liam

This is a kid we will be hearing from in years to come. Very talented film maker I interviewed before the release of his first short film. I learned much about film making talking to him. A pleasant, easy going guy who apparently got a lot accomplished because he was so easy to get along with. The film was good, and I wanted to see more.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

157/365: Georgette

We often picked her up on our way to school. I remember she was a quiet little girl and I can picture the house where she lived. One day we saw the word “fuck” written in some new cement. I was instantly nauseous and to this day don’t have a clue why I recognized that word or why it made me ill to see it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

156/365: Mrs. Ratto

Whenever I think of polenta, I think of summers at Sunnyside Cottages in Boyes Hot Springs. It was owned by the Rattos who were, I think, friends of friends. I had my first polenta there and thought how weird to be eating hot cereal for dinner. When I cried as my friend was leaving, she told me “the more you cry, the less you pee.”