Christmas 1997

Seasons Greetings to All from the Riggs Family!

Life’s little complexities never seem to end. Last year at this time my job at Litton Aero Products seemed to be winding down and the possibility of early retirement imminent. Then Litton inked a deal with an Orange County firm to create a next-generation inertial navigation system to allow aircraft to fly closer together without sacrificing safety. Since they’ve reduced the size of the passenger seats to an absolute minimum, reducing the space between aircraft was the next logical step. The product was scheduled for release in early 1998, but as is often the case, the job will take at least an additional year. Since I’m in the critical path on this project, I’ll continue at Litton until sometime in 1999.

Mary has returned to classroom teaching at the high school following a two-year stint as a Title VII coordinator for two schools. She taught a language acquisition course at Cal State University Northridge again this fall, and continues to deliver CLAD training for the school district each week. CLAD is California’s answer to the problem of limited English-proficient students whose teachers haven’t a clue how to teach them; it is also one of the few ways the state credential office can increase their revenues.

Officer Tofu, aka Cathy, is now working Harbor Division closer to her home. It is not exactly a glamorous place, but offers something she considers a personal challenge: lots of drunks. She has taken a perverse pleasure, since attending Drug Recognition Expert training, in arresting and booking them, a pleasure only exceeded by being able to impound their vehicles.

Her vacation in November took her to Germany for a ten-day tour of Berlin and environs, hosted by a half-brother she had corresponded with but had not met. In 1963-4, I served in the U.S. Army in Germany where I met a young German woman named Betty and fathered a son. Volker was born about four months after I left Germany. Though I provided some support and kept in contact, I had only seen him once, in 1976, while we were living in England. During our trip to Germany in summer 1996, David, Mary, and I spent several days with Volker and also met his girlfriend Marion in Berlin. We had tea with Betty and her husband Manfred at their home near Helmstedt and met more of the family. Cathy has suggested that Volker come to the U.S. to work; he has a Ph.D. in biotechnology but there are few jobs in that field. The German unemployment rate earlier in the year was the highest since 1933, the year Hitler rose to power.

Jenny is now a second-year law student in Chicago at Northwestern, and was chosen to work on the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology this year doing “source and cite” reviews. Fall brought her to California for five weekends for interviews for a summer law job. After receiving three offers, she decided to go with Jones Day, Reavis, and Pogue, one of the nation’s largest law firms, and the presumption is she’ll receive an offer from them when she graduates in May 1999. This Christmas she’ll be in California for about three weeks soaking up sunshine or helping us mop up from El Niño, whichever Mother Nature has in store for us.

Brian continues to dabble in soccer, Roman history, and work at Intuit, though not necessarily in that order. Seems like a good balance to us. Intuit has given him a couple of raises this year, both soccer teams (Monday Night League and San Diego County Soccer League) have been winning teams, and life is sweet. At work his responsibility is the cross-platform (Mac and PC) interview component of TurboTax, which will be a totally revamped version for 1998.

David retired from club and high school soccer in January, following a series of ankle injuries that kept him out of action for many weeks. He still plays roller hockey where the boot gives his ankle sufficient protection from marauding blows. His summer excursion to Aunt Mary and Uncle Charlie’s in Tennessee included some fishing, water-skiing, and lawnmowing—the last designed, we told him, to strengthen his ankle. At school this fall he has taken on the webmaster job for the school’s web page and finds much of his time is spent in outwitting the ingenuity of socially-deviant obscenity-writers who try to post messages. And that’s just the teachers. In between times, he tries to keep up with International Baccalaureate work, get college applications in on time, find time to go to the gym, and keep the parents in line.

Summer saw us going in lots of directions: to a family wedding in Colorado Springs where we took a heady trip to the top of Pike’s Peak, over 14,000 feet high; to Chicago to see Jenny and my sister Sue; to South Bend, Indiana for a delightfully irreverent tour of Notre Dame, courtesy of Mary’s cousin Mark, who teaches theater there; and to Detroit, to finally put to rest some ghosts from my past. The search for my real father culminated with a paternity test which showed that the man listed on my birth certificate is not related to me, and since my mother died in 1964, the mystery remains unsolved and insoluble—just another of life’s interesting twists. The family camping trip to El Capitán was a civilized affair: sandy beaches, gourmet meals in camp, shopping and eating out in tony Santa Barbara, and lots of catching up on family news.

A visit from my Tennessee cousins in October gave Cathy and me the opportunity to play hooky from work and do some sightseeing with them. Our outing included Malibu, Venice Beach, lunch on the Santa Monica pier, UCLA, and Rodeo Drive (where a salesman obligingly showed us a $215,000 pin from a jewelry case when Cathy asked, “What’s the most expensive thing you have here?”). We finished up with Grauman’s Chinese Theater (where the stars’ hand and footprints are pressed into concrete), the Hollywood Walk of Stars, and CityWalk at Universal City.

Our Christmas celebration this year will be a bit muted as the season coincides with Mary’s first chemotherapy session for treatment of breast cancer diagnosed in late October following a routine mammogram. November included two surgeries, considerable emotional upheaval, some extensive reading by both of us on the subject, exercises to regain range of motion, further tests, and a great deal of uncertainty. Her adjuvant therapy will be an aggressive one owing to both the extent of the cancer and her “youth and good health,” according to the oncologist. She‘s in an excellent and well-organized medical program at Kaiser Permanente in Woodland Hills and has also joined a support group to help get through the tough spots. The support from family, neighbors, and friends has been overwhelming and we are truly grateful. This experience has reminded us to keep focused on the things which are most important in our lives and to take some time to watch the raindrops sparkle on the trees.

May your holiday be happy and the New Year bring you health, peace, and contentment.