Why I Almost Killed My Sister

I almost killed my sister on my birthday.

say it isn't so

Now don’t get me wrong; I realize it’s shocking to lead with that, especially since this is supposed to be a humor blog and death isn’t funny. Spoiler alert: there will be a happy ending. Sort of.

It started 3 days before my birthday when I called Vicki to see whether her doctor contacted her with test results from the previous week. At 64, she’s lived most of her life with debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder, is developmentally and physically disabled and now has a muscle condition forcing her to use a walker. Life has not been particularly kind to Vicki.

Bill, Vicki me at Tahoe

Me, brother Bill and Vicki at Tahoe circa 1960

Vicki sleeps late and doesn’t have a cell phone or computer. I can only contact her via her home phone. She often can’t reach it before it goes to voicemail so I leave a message and hope she calls me back. But this time she didn’t. I figured she’s probably out getting dinner and will call me later. But no. Continue reading

A Celebration

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving day (yippee, I’m not cooking!) so I’m contemplating all that I’m thankful for — naturally, family and friends. But one person in particular comes to mind today: Marty (Mr. G), my friend Sharon’s dad.

mr-g-party-brother

Mr. G (left) and his twin brother Marsh

Recently I was invited to Mr. G’s 85th birthday celebration held at Spinnaker restaurant in Sausalito. The party took place in a room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the bay where boats sail toward the Golden Gate and kayakers paddle under the row of restaurants lining the waterfront. A perfect day for a celebration.

spinnaker

Continue reading

In My Mind’s Eye: Remembering Dad

Here’s my annual Father’s Day post, adapted from an article I wrote in 1997 for the San Francisco Chronicle about the relationship I shared with my dad. Here’s to fathers everywhere…There’s an image I have captured in my mind. I’m in my car in front of the home my parents have shared for most of their 45 married years. Mom and Dad are standing on the front porch.

From the street, I can see the huge eucalyptus tree in their backyard, silhouetted against the evening sky. It’s gently swaying in the warm breeze while the full moon illuminates the manicured lawn. My parents are smiling and waving as I drive away after a visit.

Mom lives alone now that Dad is in an Alzheimer’s nursing facility, so that scenario has changed. But it never does in my mind. My parents always stood on the porch to wave good-bye when I left. Even in pouring rain, they still stood in the open doorway together. I always looked back and returned their waves. Continue reading

Happy Dad Day

As always on Father’s Day, I repost an article about my dad I wrote in 1997 for the San Francisco Chronicle. Dad died 7 years later. Although not a man of many words, he always made an impression. I’d say my family was like a modern day Walton’s. No John Boy or Mary Ellen, but still a close knit bunch. Yep, I was one of the lucky ones. So today I pay tribute to the funny and easy going man I had the great fortune to call Dad. Here’s Remembering Dad.

Growing Up Rich

My family, 1963

My family, 1963

Being a weekend of remembrance, I drove by my childhood home, taking the familiar road I ventured down for 44 years until my parents died in 2004. Our once tan and brown home is bright blue now. Concrete sits where plants once grew and our paneled wood door is painted white and harbors a metal security door that screams STAY AWAY.

Parked in front of a house that holds special memories for me, but now looks almost unrecognizable, I realize it’s not really about the house, but the people inside who made it a home.

I grew up in Santa Venetia, which sits in an unincorporated section of Marin County, CA. Situated along a canal, the small community was originally planned to resemble the water roadways of Venice. That never happened but some winters seemed to prove otherwise.

Santa Venetia in 1914

Santa Venetia canal in 1914

You see, whenever it stormed, sections of our neighborhood flooded, especially during high tide. Since our home sat near a dip in the road, my parents bought a sump pump they shared with our neighbors. In hindsight, a rowboat might have been a better investment. That’s because during severe storms, water often seeped into our dining room, ruining the floor and staining the grasscloth wallpaper. Both needed replacing more than once, so every winter Mom worried herself sick.

Our family home from 1950 to 2004

Our family home from 1960 to 2004

Back in 1960, when my parents bought our home on Galerita Way, it was intended to be our “starter” house. But we never left. And thank goodness for that. Now don’t get me wrong; it was a modest home for sure; not much to look at and not in a desirable neighborhood. But what a spectacular upbringing.

Day at the beach

Day at the beach

I grew up back when kids played outside until way past dark, grudgingly coming inside only when summoned. Money was tight even though both my parents worked, yet each year they managed a 2-week family vacation to Lake Tahoe. That was our big treat. And most Sundays during summer we skied at Lake Berryessa with friends. It was bliss.dad in boat with us

To us kids, new shoes were a big deal. Just going to a drive-in movie caused my sister and I to dance excitedly in anticipation. We lived in a tiny house with bedrooms the size of matchboxes but that didn’t matter to us. We’d never heard of a family room and didn’t care that our dining room was a converted bedroom.

I grew up in the 60s with orange shag carpet, a one-car garage and an above-ground doughboy pool neighborhood friends helped erect. We had block parties and dinner parties; on weekends the adults often gathered in front yards to visit. It was a simple, innocent time. At least it seemed that way to me.

The day we got a color TV, neighbors piled in to watch; it was quite an event. I remember the first time I saw the colorfully bright NBC peacock.NBC peakcock

Sunday evenings after dinner we gathered in front of the TV. I’d sit on that orange shag carpet while we all watched Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

I still recall many of my neighborhood friends, which is pretty amazing considering my pathetic memory. My young life was filled with pingpong games, carefree days of swimming and countless summer BBQs. I tell ya, I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood.

Remembering those days now, I wouldn’t change a thing; not the community we lived in or our tiny tan and brown house on a street that flooded. Although we didn’t have much, we had what we needed.

Celebrating my birthday

The truth is, I always knew I was adored. And if you’re blessed enough to have that, you somehow know you have all you need.

My family

My family, 1985