Christmas 2018

Season’s greetings!

It’s been a tumultuous year for our family.

Mary Riggs (Feb 15, 1945 – Feb 1, 2018)

Mary at 20 and at 72, Holding Lucas on Christmas Day 2017 On her final day, our four children and I, Tori, Dave’s wife Jen, and two-month old Lucas were at her bedside. Later I recalled, “We held Mary's hands and kissed her as she departed this life at 7:50 pm. She has now been relieved of the suffering she had endured from the cancer that had ravaged her body. She was a woman of great faith and has crossed the great divide and is now in God’s hands.”

Mary at 21, Wine Tasting at Christian Brothers Winery on Our Honeymoon I met Mary in her final months as a teenager. I fell for her at first sight, struck by her incisive mind, her beauty, her sense of humor, her goodness, and her love. I was a UC Riverside senior and she a junior. We both lived just off campus, but many nights we’d study at the university library during its evening hours of 9 to midnight, and then relish a slow walk back, frequently stopping to fortify our relationship.

Mary's Legacy: Nicky, Brian, Lucie, Tori, Cathy, Jamie, [and me] (plus Jenny, David, and Lucas) We married when she was 21, and during our 51 years together we traveled widely and raised four accomplished children, who in turn presented us with five grandchildren. She was a teacher. Her legacy includes the many hearts she touched, and the stories she leaves behind.

Cancer: Unyielding and Persistent

Notes Mary Wrote Five Days after Biopsy Occurred Mary in Chemo, as She, David, and Cathy Model Hats, and I Model Her Wig Our life was blue skies and green lights until that day in October 1997, when a biopsy revealed that a lump in her breast was cancerous. She wrote,

“This is something that happens to other people, not to me. How can I get out of this nightmare? … Will I ever feel normal again?”

Mary and Teresa after Finishing the 3-Day Walk from Santa Barbara to Oxnard in 2002 Mary underwent a mastectomy, then chemo and radiation, and finally breast reconstruction. And life did become normal again … until mid-2016, when a biopsy of a growth behind her right eye revealed that the cancer had returned, but this time it was unyielding. She battled it with grace and dignity, until the end.

My Time for Reflection

My friend Dave Murray said astutely, “Mourning and remembering are important, but life is for living, and living is for sharing.” This asserts that I may wish to share my remaining years with someone new. Provocative!

My Therapist Told Me Plaque Still, grieving can be a lengthy process, as the following plaque suggests:

My therapist told me “Time heals all wounds,” so I stabbed him. Now we wait…

Some of Mary's Jewelry That Was Donated to Mary Health of the Sick Thrift Shop Going through Mary’s effects, donating many items to charity, and updating our trust provided me with a welcomed diversion following Mary’s passing.

Travels: First, to Texas

Cathy and I at Ashley's Texas Wedding Cathy and I traveled to Granbury, Texas, in May and attended the wedding of Ashley Mulldorfer and Michael Ross. I was now a widower, and during the festivities, I found myself both puzzled and flattered by one lady’s attention; during our conversation, Tracy jokingly referred to me as “the perfect man.”

Next, to Paris and Munich

Tori and I at the Eiffel Tower in Paris In July, Cathy, Tori, and I boarded a Paris-bound plane. Over the next few weeks, we visited Paris, Munich, northern Italy, and Iceland. We took a walking tour of Paris during the day. At night, we admired the rotating beacon atop the Eiffel Tower that lights up the sky. Our centrally located hotel was within walking distance of the Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and even the Arc de Triomphe.

Cousins Jamie, Tori, Nicky, and Lucie in a Munich Park South of Munich, we were welcomed in Pullach by Marion’s parents, Klaus and Christine. Brian, Marion, and kids were already there on vacation, and we three joined them for a few days. We visited Munich’s famed Hofbräuhaus, walked to the Englischer Garten (ignoring the nudists), and watched some Munichers surfing. We drove to the Starnberger See, a popular lake west of Munich, where we hiked and went in the water. Our trip there culminated in a memorable visit to Waldwirtschaft, a beer garden, where we drank and talked to Marion’s parents, brother Veit, wife Julia, and their children.

Finally, to Northern Italy and Iceland

Volker, Marion, and Alexander; with Cathy, Tori, and Me The three of us headed south to Schenna, Italy, and rendezvoused with my German son Volker, his wife Marion, and my 7-year old grandson Alexander, not yet conversant in English. Over the next four days, the six of us talked and laughed as we hiked the hills and trails in this wealthy Südtirol province in northern Italy.

We drove back to Munich, and flew to Iceland. We toured Reykjavik, took a Golden Circle Tour to see the natural beauty of the island, and visited some museums in the capital city.

Cathy, Tori, and I Share Our House Now

Tori, Lucie, Jamie, and Nicky on a Ventura Beach in Late November One Is a Sixth Grader and the Other Is Ageless I have continued to help people purchase and set up Windows computers. As president of our Homeowners Association, I get to meet and interact with many of my neighbors.

Besides her police work, Cathy has volunteered at Tori’s school, showcasing her audio-visual expertise. This fall, Tori transitioned to Sequoia Middle School, as a sixth grader. It’s now only three short years to high school.

What’s Up with Jenny and Brian & Marion

The Start of One of Jenny’s Baskets After Mary passed, Jenny worked with my lawyer and me to help transition the trust so that I am the sole trustee. At Thanksgiving she demonstrated her recently acquired skill as a competent basket weaver, sharing some of her creations with the family.

Marion, Lucie, Jamie, Brian, and Nicky along the Bay Brian and Marion’s Berkeley house now sports a new kitchen and upgraded bathrooms. Brian’s Adobe work is now mostly from home, and Marion’s graphic design contracting work is increasing as she is freed by the growing independence of the children. Like Tori, Lucie is now a sixth grader, attending Martin Luther King Middle School. The boys excel in sports, with Nicky the top scorer, and Jamie starring as a top defender on the same soccer team.

Dave and Jen’s Busy Life

Dave and Lucas Enjoy a Book about Sleeping Cathy with Tori and Jen with Lucas on Mother's Day along the Lake in Westlake Dave and Jen are certain to move in 2019, and this year has seen many changes in their lives. Lucas is happy and vibrant, having turned one on December 1, a marvelous accomplishment, given the harrowing but successful heart surgery he underwent hours after birth. Jen’s new job as Director of Sales, West at Maven Clinic keeps her on the phone and on the road. At the same time, Dave’s skill at placing ads on the internet has landed him lucrative contracts with several companies. And, he is planning a much larger and riskier venture very soon. Do they have too many balls in the air? I think not, because both have great juggling skills.

Our Walk for Cancer Shirt: We Walk for Mary 2018 Jen formed and led our Making Strides for Breast Cancer Hakuna My Tatas team in October, and we raised over $11,000. Our t-shirts read We walk for Mary 2018.

We Transition to 2019

Jenny, Brian, Dave, and Cathy, with Mary’s Dad, Grandpa Jerry, Here Almost 97 Our extended family grew to 20 at Thanksgiving, hosted in Atascadero by Mary’s sister Teresa and husband John. The young crowd partied in Paso Robles while the elders slept.

What changes will the new year bring? Stay tuned. Best wishes to all for a blessed Christmas season and a happy and healthy 2019.