Christmas 2006

Merry Christmas!

Our trip itineraryThis has been a year of doors opening and closing. It began with a trip to Argentina in January to revisit locales where I had spent time as an exchange student more than 40 years ago. Thanks to a successful Internet search, I was able to reconnect with my “sister” Hilda in Rosario. We met some of her children and celebrated with a traditional asado (barbecue) at her home. We caught up on all that has happened in our surprisingly parallel lives: careers in education, four children each, second daughters both lawyers and sons in tech fields. She’s a little ahead of us in the grandchild department, but we plan to catch up soon! Sadly, both her mother and her husband had passed away some months before and I regretted not having made the trip sooner. Ébert, the best friend of Hilda’s late husband Rubén, checked over our itinerary for the weeks we would be traveling in Argentina and pronounced it perfecto, suitable for experiencing la vida buena en la República.

Cooling off at the falls of IguazúAfter we tangoed and sampled empanadas and alfajores in cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, we headed to the spectacular roaring falls in Iguazú on the northern border with Brazil where the weather was hot and humid. The contrast with the climate in Bariloche, our next stop, in northern Patagonia, was striking—we went from sandals and shorts to snow boots and jackets! We stayed on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi (“Isle of the Tiger” in the Mapuche language) and spent a few days seeing the sights via bus, van, chairlift, gondola and boat, hiking in the crisp, cool alpine climate.

The dense glacier Perito Moreno reflects blue light and absorbs all other colorsFurther south, we spent a few days in El Calafate, a wind-swept region where steppes, mountains, lakes, woods and glaciers coexist with rich native flora and fauna. In Los Glaciares National Park, we viewed icebergs, ice floes and “glacial milk” lakes. We hiked along pasarelas or elevated walkways to view and “hear” the glaciers, whose cracking, said Larry, might be a plea, “Stop global warming!”

The train at the end of the world in UshuaiaThe last place we visited, the Tierra del Fuegan town of Ushuaia, provided yet another contrast—cold, windy and rainy, even in mid-summer. Cruise ships use the port as a starting point for Antarctic voyages, but most tourists come as we did to ride the Tren del Fin del Mundo, see the penguins on Martillo Island or sail the Beagle Canal. Ushuaia also boasts “training camps” for sled dogs, one of which is just to the left side of our Christmas photo.

Mary with her parents, Mary and Jerry, at the WWII MemorialStateside once again, we were able to fit in some Arizona desert exploration during spring break, and after school finished in June, accompany my parents—both now 85—back East to visit nephew Tom, Lisa and the amazingly talented Jack in D.C. Our visit to the WWII Memorial was emotional and we were gratified to see visitors come up to salute our “Old Soldier” who was wearing his WWII Corps of Engineers cap and his 1st Lt pin. The Korean War and FDR Memorials were very impressive, though we all thought the Federal Government should spend a little more money fixing up the Mall for visitors. The finale to the East Coast trip was a visit with my brother Michael’s family in rural Amherst, MA, where we enjoyed a barbecue, watching softball, hiking, shopping and catching up with Deb and niece Emma and nephew Isaac.

David has exchanged rent for house payments; he bought a condo in Santa Monica in late June and is learning the pleasures and pain of home ownership. His employer InfoSpace will be closing the L.A. office next summer, but he’s been persuaded to stay on for several more months to help in the transition. His employment plans afterwards are up in the air; fortunately, his skills are in high demand.

Brian and Marion in Munich in July at the wedding of her brother Veit and JuliaBrian and Marion have opted to stay put in their San Francisco apartment until some time after the birth of our first granddaughter early next year. We’ll make a quick trip up to S.F. just before Christmas to give Brian the diaper-changing exam so he’ll be certified! Then Marion’s mom will be coming over from Munich to help in mid-January.

Jenny too has moved into new digs, a 1928 Mediterranean-style house in Altadena. She’s busily re-wiring, painting and re-doing, with the help of Kirk’s mom Kathy and handywoman Pharmacist-Electrician Christina. It’s a lovely, interesting, quirky home with lots of surprises, such as a California basement, an outdoor kitchen near the pool and lots of mature cacti. We’ll gather there for Christmas, minus the nesting San Francisco pair.

Cathy, researching Pack 'n Play gearCathy and Kirk plan to present granddaughter number two about mid-January, and we look for-ward to seeing Kirk implement his diaper-changing plan, which involves a garden hose and a trash barrel on the patio.

Today, December 8, would have been my brother Bob’s 59th birthday. Sadly he slipped away in October of respiratory failure at the nursing facility where he had spent almost twelve years since “the accident” where he was found unconscious on the street with his wallet missing. His last years were difficult as he was no longer ambulatory, nor was his memory intact following his accident.

Michael and Bob in 1987We mourn his loss. It’s sad to us who are left behind, but we’re glad he is released from his suffering on this earth. He was buried at Riverside National Cemetery, in the plot where our Old Soldier and his bride will someday rest. We have spent the past several weeks reminiscing with each other and telling “Bob stories.” His was a difficult life, but characterized by tenacity and persistence in the face of tremendous obstacles, and his struggles inspired the many people who knew him. More than anything, his life taught us, his siblings, that whatever our problems, they were nothing compared to Bob’s challenges. [In mid-2005, Michael published an article on growing up with Bob. Please read "Johnny, Bob and Me: A Brothers' Story".]

Larry and I plod along, weaving family, work, travel and relaxation through our days, aware that nothing lasts forever, except two people and a ham. On September 3, we celebrated 40 years of marital bliss and hiss—fortunately more the former—and we still enjoy each other’s company a lot.

My part-time CSUN workload has escalated to four classes this semester, and Larry continues to serve on our Homeowners Association, juggling Web work for me and the HOA, and keeping computers operating throughout the West.

Between them, these proud walkers raised over $8,000!To celebrate nine years as a cancer survivor, I trained all summer and, in late August, walked the Seattle 3-Day with my awesome sister Teresa, 60 miles over tough terrain in incredible heat, with our hubbies working the event as Road Safety Crew. We all had fun, raised some money, got to visit with big brother John and his Debbie, as well as with a very grown-up nephew Stanley and his partner Jeramy. We had an inspiring, exhausting and exhilarating experience, didn’t whine (much) and will work crew together next year in San Diego in November.

We take time out from busy schedules to think about family and friends far and near, and to give thanks for your presence in our lives. Have a wonderful holiday!