summertime, cont’d.

Listening to folks tell stories about my dad

As of yesterday I am finished up with my summertime work-type obligations and looking forward to some R&R. Yesterday I gave the commencement speech at Goddard’s individualized studies MA program and had a nice warm and fuzzy flashback to my Hampshire graduation. I got to talk a little about what I’ve been doing since then, and the opportunity to reflect was actually sort of useful. I’ve gotten a lot done, now that I think about it. And graduation was a long time ago, now that I think about it.

I continue to limp along otherwise, wanting nothing more than to sit in a chair in the backyard wrapped in a blanket and stare into the trees. Everyone’s got their little happy place in their head and for some reason mine mirrors someone recovering from tuberculosis, I can not explain it. I’m now officially the executor of my dad’s estate which means that me and my sister go through the long difficult process of wrapping up his affairs and at the end of it all of his things are no longer exactly his. I got some books from the library about how to be an executor, but have put off starting to read them.

I don’t talk too much about my dad and his complicated legacy except to say that I felt that I got along with him well and, of course, I miss him. We had the life celebration which went as well as we could have hoped and I’m so grateful both to everyone who showed up as well as my real-life and internet friends who helped Kate and I plan and prepare. There’s always the weird things that sort of get you when you don’t expect it, of course. I’m sure this is different for everyone.

For me, it was reading about Amy Winehouse’s death and especially Russel Brand’s poignant description of loving someone who has a problem, and the long wait for the phone call. My relationship with my dad always had a lot to do with technology. I think it might surprise people that often that technology was the phone, the regular long chatty phone calls we had, the late night calls I wouldn’t answer, and the one that I was always dreading, the one that I finally got. For a guy who was in many ways so unique and fascinating (to me, to other people) it’s comforting but also a little sad to see someone in another country and living in a different world so completely encapsulate what’s always been a difficult thing for me to explain, both to myself and other people.

Whenever I’m down on myself, doesn’t happen that often but it happens, for not being able to do something or figure something out or solve this or that problem, I console myself that there are frequently downsides, big ones, to being the sort of person that Russel Brand describes, “a fucking genius” and maybe it’s okay, on balance, that while I have many other very nice qualities, that is not one of them.



I licked my iPhone today and it reminded me of my dad. Family members will get this immediately, but for everyone else… My dad used to get up in the morning and do the exact same thing every day (as near as I can remember, being a little kid when he still lived at home). Shower with the same soap, come downstairs with his hair combed and wet, fold his shirt cuffs up to his wrists and stick his glasses in his mouth to clean them off. He was sort of blowing on them but I think maybe licking them as well. My iPhone was all grotty from my sweaty fingers and it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Sure did work.

In any case, I am still doing okay and improving. It is funny, however, how subjectively I really feel like I am doing pretty well but objectively I’m not really all there. I am clumsier than usual, my proprioception is all off. I bent a fingernail nearly off while doing the dishes the other day, hitting it against the fridge. I bumped my head bending over to do something and forgetting the window was above me. I’m generally sharper than that. More objectively there is my online trivia league. I won’t say that I’m awesome but I usually hold my own. I started in the Rookie League, went up to the C League where I stayed for five seasons, and this season I wound up demoted to the D League which didn’t even exist when I started. This is clearly, to me, a sign that I’m not all there and this is mostly fine. It’s summertime.

Jim was up for a long holiday weekend and we got to eat food, go exploring (see above, this is in my backyard), play bocce, roast marshmallows, watch a parade, see a free concert, ride bikes, sleep in, go to the drive-in and stare at birds. I made a little post on MetaFilter about birders which you might enjoy if you like that sort of thing. Small public service announcement: I feel like we’ve told everyone but if you wanted to come to the Celebration of Life thing that we’re doing in memory of my dad, it’s July 23 in Westport and feel free to contact me for more details. I’ll be zipzipping around planning stuff, so if you’d just like to see me, this may not be the time for it, but there will be plenty of time over the next few months. It’s summer time.

been a while

swing at tower hill

I don’t believe I’ve taken a month off from writing here since I started writing here in 1997. If you know me at all you’ve probably heard the news but my father died about a month ago. Somewhat suddenly, not entirely unexpectedly. The things I write here also wind up over on Facebook, so I’m less inclined to talk at length here, but it’s Father’s Day tomorrow and I know some people are wondering how I’m doing and I wanted to put a marker up and say I’m doing okay. Not thriving, but okay. A little slow in the head but okay in the spirit. I’m generally a fairly cerebral and introspective person, some have said an overthinker, and managing grief that you’ve been preparing for for a while is an interesting animal. I loved my dad and he loved me and we were on good terms with each other and I’m thinking that’s the best you can hope for in this sort of situation.

I apologize if this sounds cold, but logistically, having had an organized and meticulous father (and being a bit of a chip off the old block in this case) has been a godsend. Paperwork is in order. Arrangements have been made. People have stepped up in almost surprising numbers to help out, lend an ear, be present. My sister, who has always been one of my favorite people, continues to be an absolute joy to have in my life when the chips are down. I have a supportive and capable boyfriend who seems to understand the “I need to be completely alone for a while” feelings I’m having and random demands I’m making.

The details aren’t that gripping. For now we’re keeping the house in Westport, where I’m writing this from. We had a small service and there will be a larger “celebration of life” thing in late July that I am sending out an email about this weekend. You can read the obits that made the rounds

A lot of people who knew my father as a computer engineer or even a sailor may not have known that he was also a musician, played the guitar and sang, had a wonderful voice. He was in a band called the Islanders on Martha’s Vineyard in Chilmark. Apparently (and I am not totally clear on details) there was a little make-your-own record pressing machine service there and we have eight or so albums of music performances that he was a part of. My mom has been digitizing them and put up one of the songs recently and you can hear it here.

So, sorry if I didn’t get to tell you before this. Thanks to people who have sent cards, emails, well-wishes and the like. I expect it will take a long time to get used to the new normal around here. This is one of the many times I’m feeling fortunate to have a solid group of near and faraway friends and family even though, like my dad, I can have a tendency to keep people at arm’s length.