Fathers and Roses

I remember you walking up the stairs at night and checking if I was asleep. It was a comforting game that I only played when I had already won.

I remember basement steps, and doing the hard icky jobs, just so others wouldn’t have to.

I remember the shop and the mysteries it held. I remember a big office and an old pickup.

I remember the scuffed leather chair, a cocked head and a phone resting gently while joking threats conveyed a total sense of safety.

I remember homework at the kitchen table and the red circled commas.

I remember lamb’s brains, and the comforting thought that you were human.

I remember Chapman picnics, and carnivals and T ball and soccer games.

I remember camping, and beach adventures. Hauling the crab pots seemed like nothing to you and the activity was so much more fun than sitting on the spit. I remember measuring and the pleasure of ‘too small, throw it back!’ The scuttling in the bottom of the boat was not scary because you were there.

I remember beer batter pancakes and building fires.

I remember carpools and your protectiveness as you understood I was not a girl who backed down.

I remember the startling idea that you were that kind of parent too, calming babies and changing diapers.

I remember planting trees on hillsides and an I5 Thanksgiving and Rice Hill.

I remember early mornings and the moment I knew what you were thinking by how you breathed.

I remember a sunburn on one leg because you let me drive the whole way to the beach.

I remember ‘hearts were made to be broken’ and ‘hey Carol, we have the back seat to ourselves’

I remember Stanford’s dinners, and early morning RAC visits. Flowers and cards.

I remember hair-cuts and olive groves and field trips with no contingencies.

I remember you saying ‘yes’, to school dances, and rides and every question I ever thought to ask you.

I remember every time you rescued me, and there are many.

I remember kindness. And humility. And a willingness to learn, always.

I remember ‘hands in the water, when I could not swim, I hung on to him’

It was always all right.




Always beginning again

Today is my grandmother’s birthday. Drucilla Ileen Curnutt Hamblin was born June 15 1902. She had a first-rate mind and was a certified teacher in a one-room school house to support first her family of origin and then her family of destination. She taught school to support the family while my grandfather attended dental school. After having children she devoted herself to homemaking, raising my mother and uncles to value education, hard work and family. Her sons all became dentists and my mother, well, for those lucky enough to know her, understand how incredible a woman she was.
Ileen made three meals a day for years in the Arizona heat well before air conditioning was widely available. She made clothes to outfit her children and grandchildren and did works of public service in her spare time. Her selflessness was expected, that was just how things were. None of us will ever know how she felt about an education cut short, a professional life out of reach and a lifetime of putting others first. She encouraged my mother to pursue an education and find her own self-fulfillment. Ileen sent Carol away so her daughter could pursue a path of actualization and died before they had a language to find common ground.
My mother encouraged me to follow my dreams, often to the other side of the world, and despite missing me terribly, she felt strongly that she was following in her own mother’s footsteps. I’m grateful for that encouragement, even as I mourn the times we could have had together and the delay that meant my mother will never play with or care for my children in my lifetime.
On this day of my grandmother’s birth I am also grateful for all the other strong, selfless, amazing women whom I have the privilege to know. We are all taking different paths through life; some are rearing the next generation with love and passion, some are starting on new professional lives with courage and resolve, most are the glue that hold us together in all our myriad ways. I’m grateful too for their partners and allies in navigating this complex, difficult world. There are so many ways to show love, to let others know we care. There are many things today to fear; the rise of authoritarianism, the hatred that leads to violence, and the uncertainty of what lays before us.
My mother taught me that the only thing that will help us through is to try to love enough to understand and celebrate our differences. So for anyone reading this, I hope you see the love you have in your life. I hope you know that your mother loves you, even if she doesn’t always know how to say it. I hope you have the courage to open your heart to love, and to persist, even when it seems hopeless.
We all stand on the shoulders of giants. I never knew my grandmother, but I know that so many of the ways I am lucky in this world I owe to her tenacity, conviction and persistence. Happy birthday Ileen, today is an important day.LexmarkAIOScan13_4-2