Last Year, then On Track Again
Sometimes you might think life is over, then it surprises you in pleasant ways -- you're still alive.
"Chapter 9 Last Year
I signed up for Ancestry.com last year. I see different reactions from people about my preoccupation with family history. Common is, “Why do you want to spend all of that time on the past, when there is so little time to focus on the future?” That is a very insightful question, I think. Yet, in the greater context, that is like asking a historian about his reason for being.
I am not an historian, but, just like everything in life, balancing between past knowledge, present dealings, and future purpose seems right to me. I feel like life is such a fast track that being propelled by events I have lost control. Considering my historical roots is a way to put on the brakes and to savor what has been, what is, and to reflect on what might become.
Parallel with writing this book, I have completed my family history as far as I can go. With that, I have discovered new stories and material that will make the remaining chapters more interesting than I dreamed possible. I must return to my original outline because you might stub your toe on the trail without knowing more about the surroundings and to where we might be headed.
Stopping, starting, and moving from here to there and from there to here, be the essence of a crosswalk. Painted white lines sufficiently apart for four abreast pairs to cross with the green and flashing white pedestrian. Go on.
Some walking people observe vehicular rules and cross on the right side facing on comers to the left. Some are about their purposes with concentration or even involuntary behavior from routine practice. Others are more defiant. Come on.
Some are more reckless, radical, and erratic, weaving through here-they-come people, in and out. Some carry things: newspapers, coffee cups, bags, cell phones, and computers, knapsacks, purses, brief cases, umbrellas, food snacks, and much less identifiable bundles. Carry on.
From distant perspective, crossing people are an orderly pattern of movement, coming and going to the rhythm of changing lights: red, yellow, green: stop, anticipation, go. Some crosswalks sound with chirps aiding the blind in passage. Pass on.
At four-way crosses, buses may stop to load and unload passengers. A busy queue provides for those hawking mass messages. One man carries a placard, “No free sex.” Another jibbing man repeats with each changing light. Keep on.
Some prance, jog, stride, or lollygag. Others use arms or battery power to chair across. Sometimes we glimpse one another. Mostly we stare through, unless there is a brush or collision. Most are blind with purpose. Watch out.
JAG, San Francisco, April 14, 2000
It was our last year in San Francisco before moving back east. I ferried to work each day from Alameda, a village island on the bay. It was just as ideal as it sounds. My office was downtown, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and my clients were in Washington DC. They wanted to visit me more than I had to visit them. All of that changed when the partners decided to sell the firm.
The farewell was complicated as our lives were so intertwined in the Bay Area. Many of our nieces, and nephews, and their families live there. The community is extraordinarily tolerant and supportive of creative people, and that makes a big difference in the quality of life, I believe.
Chapter 10 On Track Again
Now, having made a leap from the potential gloominess of life-threatening disease, it is time to right the course to this journey.
I wrote poetry between the years 1970 and 2000 that I incorporate as you have witnessed. I dedicated the Poesies to my daughter Mary Elizabeth with the initial quotation:
''Eve more excellent than Adam''
''Women do excel men in virtues and rare endowments of the mind, and I think we shall find that herein also women do far outstrip men.[i][i]''
I include this 370 year old reference because I find this to be a true possibility. After my initial experience with Grandfathers and my own Father, and after meeting my wife and the throng that surrounds her, I have been duly redirected.
Once again, to my daughter…
On Your Arrival
When you first appeared, a cool spring day in April 1976, I saw and heard a strong girl who arrived with a commanding purpose. As father, I proclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen, meet the first woman President of these United States.”
Little did I know then what a boring undertaking that would be for the bundle of talent before me? Of course you know the stories of how your wonderful Mother and I had worked so hard to prepare for your arrival. We painted and cleaned, and readied your room not expecting that your place would be next to ours for some time to come. That is how we bonded, how we learned that this girl is a partier into the night.
Your early years were when Jimmy Carter was President and we observed the low-temperature rule. Pictures show you all wrapped up in sweat suits with hoods. You were never cold. You loved Cheerios and vegetables, an indicator of diet preferences to come.
We moved around Ohio—Columbus, Cleveland, and Dayton. You made friends everywhere—multicultural and multiethnic—something that is very good in today’s world, I think.
From those early experiences, I wanted to share with you the joy of my youth, principally being outdoors, fishing and hiking. You were a perfect companion as you trooped right along. And, Mother did too. We moved to Chicago and still found time for fishing and hiking, whether at Lake Sandwich or Green Lake Wisconsin.
We devoted much time to the arts. Mother and I both love the arts as she is an artist and I yearn to write more than business topics. Interesting how you have emerged to lead us both to the paths where we belong. I knew you would.
One of the saddest moments of my life was losing my job at Christmas in Chicago. You wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll, and we did not have an income. Mother made one for you, and we continued to search for a real one.
I made a rocking doll bed, and I am certainly no carpenter. By the time the word was out and the crib was complete, you had two Cabbage Patch dolls and one from the orphanage. I think you really liked the homemade one the best, as it is your consistent inclination to care about the less popular.
We moved to Florida on Tampa Bay and what a blast. Well, except the brief moment in suburbia—island living with grandma on board, and condo living with the big pool was pretty great. We enjoyed the local culture, and the beach.
I loved it when you would come to Talon Publishing, Inc., our business, and give me advice while sitting at the Board table, doing homework. It was amazing how you jumped into helping Emmy Award winning Kristin Anderson, nature film videographer with her editing tasks, babysitting, and the like.
Best was having Grandma Radcliffe helping us all along with character building. I think you helped her too as it was very difficult for her after losing her husband. You gave to her new focus and purpose.
Moving to California was a dream for all of us, I think. Hermosa and Redondo Beach who can beat that? Los Angeles High School of the Arts, what an experience!
I know you hate it when I brag and carryon about your painting, acting, dancing, music, and performance art skills, but who has such a talented daughter? Few do.
I think your experiences at California College of Arts & Crafts and at the San Francisco Art Institute have presented the right mix to help you develop. You worked hard. You had trying times as we all do struggling to come to grips with who we are and where we are headed.
There are no easy answers. There is no certain future. The best thing, there is always something new that you can invent, a new way of thinking that breaks from the mold of pat answers that leave us mired without progress. No matter what your station in life, I know that you will keep us fresh in thought, noble in deeds, honest in thinking, and with loving tolerance for humankind. For that, you are well prepared.
Congratulations on your graduation from College.
More to come, and the best to come; home is always where we are.
Love You Mary,
[i][i] LONDON (April 20) - A historian in northern England says he has found a 370-year-old book proclaiming that women are better than men, a volume he calls an early voice for women's empowerment. Alan Davies, heritage officer in Wigan, outside Manchester, said he found the 182-page book under a pile of papers in a town hall vault, where he had been hunting for something else.