Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Ok. I will admit that what I am about to write is a little weird.

Maybe it is just how I put things together in my brain. And that is known to be very weird.

But when I think of Dan, like when I am passing a semi-truck on the freeway, or when I see the ocean, or when I look at a good climbing tree, the first thing I visualize is not his face.

I see his knees.

They were always bent. Or so my brain sees them.

This thought process began as I sat for breakfast with some friends whose 15 year old son is well over 6 feet and is the center on his high school football team. He is a rather LARGE young man. And his mother was describing the son's discomfort when sitting in restaurants or school buses or any other mode of transportation meant for the general public.

Dan spent his travel time with his knees somewhere near his nose. And usually closer to his ears.

We took a trip once on Amtrak. From Whitefish, Montana to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Twenty four hours where he never got to stand straight up or stretch out his legs. Airplanes were worse.

But even just sitting on a lawn mower, his knees were above his hands. He just didn't physically fit.

He was that way as a kid. At least as I remember. Knees near his ears.  Just trying to fit into a space too small for him.

Maybe the world was too small for him.

So I think about his knees.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Star

Back: Dan, Gael, Heather, Bernadette, Bill  Front: Mom holding Melodie, Dad holding Jill                                         Christmas 1972
Christmas at our house was a BIG deal.

Our mother had a real flare for that kind of thing and she loved kitch.

So we had little elves swinging from the chandeliers and picking around lamps on tables. There was real and plastic ivy on anything that would hold it. There were pine wreaths in every room. Ornaments hung in the most unlikely of places. And there was always the tree.

Covered in every ornament you can think of.

The house was bright and shiny.

Now there were jobs for each of us. Bill and Dad did the outside lights and Dad and Dan did the lights on the tree. Always.

This was, I figured, because Dan was so skinny and tall that he could reach the top of the tree without knocking it over. I remember him putting on the star. Or at least I think I do.

It is funny what your brain does with memories. All my childhood becomes a amalgam of impressions and snap shots. I somehow manage to put them all together. Not necessarily in chronological order.

Because we weren't always grown. Dan had to have been too small to do what I think I remember him doing.

But it is a good memory. So I will keep it.

Just like I have kept mom's elves, her Christmas table cloth, and, believe it or not, some of the holly.

Christmas was a big deal.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It Happened Again

Another of Dan's friends from high school contacted Bill today. He had lost track of Dan over the last year.

Bill and I have both sent him emails but I know he will be crushed.

He was part of the Linda Vista Gang.

Those were the kids that hung out in our back yard and played baseball and football and any other game we (they) could think of. My mom was always making kool-aid (the good kind) for them. And I was always being a pest cuz I wanted to play. I didn't care that they were boys but they seemed to care that I was a girl. Go figure.

When I think of Butch, I remember warm summer nights and the smell of orange blossoms. Which is kinda funny since oranges bloom in the spring and the last of any crop was gone by summer. But that is how my mind scrunches up the time.

Butch's mom and dad were great friends to our parents. They disagreed on almost everything political but, as my dad would say, politics shouldn't ruin good friendships.

When I think of those nights I remember Dan running. I remember him throwing the baseball with all his might and the hat coming right off of his head. I remember him grinning.

I remember him. I remember him healthy and happy.

I hope that Butch can remember him that way, too.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Today is Another Day

I have lots of thoughts of Dan these days. Just random memories that really make no sense.

Except for today. This one made a little sense.

Today my daughter walked into work so that she could go to lunch with me. Which is really neat as she no longer works here and is getting ready to go to San Diego for three months to study for the Bar exam.

We go to lunch with some friends and she is ragging on me about something. My comeback was to give her the look. And her comeback was "You can't be mad at me when I am being cute! And she proceeds to screw her face into the 2 year old "I am so cute" face.

I start to laugh and the memory of Dan playing "Concentration" with her comes to mind.

Please note that at the time of this little card game Melodie is @ 2-3. And Dan..... well,

He hadn't changed much in 18 months or so from the time this picture was taken.

But Melodie was a sharp little kid. AND SHE KNEW IT!

She keeps beating the ***p out of Dan. Dan, despite his youth, had a serious case of ICRS (I can't remember ***t) Which does not work well when you have to remember where the last card was and where it's match is.

And being the shy, retiring child that she was (and still is) she would say things like;
"Can't you remember anything, Uncle Dan?"
"How old ARE you, Uncle Dan?"

And other politically and socially correct things like that.

Dan got so frustrated. You could see it in his face. He couldn't yell at a little kid even if she was a smart-aleck.

Not when she made that face.

Thirty-five+ years later, she makes that face and I see him.

Yeah, that cute face
I see him laughing at his own frustration at being beat by an itty-bitty, smartypants kid. With a cute face.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

At His Bedside

We got to Redding at some ungodly hour. It must have been after 2am. We had flown in a single engine plane that Bill had arranged.

It was cold and foggy. Typical for the Valley.

We couldn't find the cab that we were told would be there.

When we did, we had what seemed like a ride for forever to the hospital. I thought I had steeled myself. I thought I could handle seeing him. In a hospital bed with tubes.

But it was like seeing him when he was a kid in the stupid hospital bed at home. He had valley fever then. And there were no tubes then. And he woke up when I touched him. He would yell at me or ignore me then.

I wanted him to wake up and ignore me. Please.

So I held his hand, and I stroked his hair.

I talked to him.

I read to him.

And I sang to him. Danny Boy. The version that he hated, of course.

Maybe he would wake up and ignore me. Please.

And then others arrived and I stepped away from the side of his bed. They wanted to be there, too. And I wanted to scream. But I didn't.

I left. I had to go to work the next day. I could have stayed but now I knew he was gone and I didn't want to be part of the discussions.

I just wanted to be next to him. And I couldn't. It was not my place.

So, Melodie and I got on a train, And I stared at the bottom of her bunk. All night.

I couldn't cry. I couldn't move. I couldn't even think.

I just stared.

My best friend was gone and I could not bring him back.

Tonight I relive that 24 hours.

And I cry. Quietly.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

An Anniversay I Don't Want

It was about this hour. I was watching television. Grey's Anatomy.

And the phone rang. And I didn't want to get up and get it. So I let the caller go to voice mail. Then it rang again. And I grudgingly got up to get it.

All he said was "Something is wrong with my eyes. I can't see right."

Tonight the whole conversation comes back to me.


I feel like I could have done something, said something, thought of something. I know that is not logical and that there is nothing on this earth that I could have done. But I FEEL differently.

I have gone through depression, bargaining, anger but I can't get to acceptance.

I want the phone to ring. I want it to be him. I want to take it immediately and happily because I know it is him. I want to sing to him. I want him to go to Melodie's graduation from law school. I want to see his face again. I want to hear his voice.

There is no cure for what ails me tonight. Like Frodo's knife wound, it will always hurt more on the night that it happened.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jonathan Livingston

Saturday night was magical.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Telosa

Our concert at the Mission went very, very well. The Mission was packed and in the front row sat Smitty and Jeanine, Josh and Heidi and Craig and AnnMarie. The latter two are very good friends of both Josh and I.

So I not only got to sing for Dan, I got to sing for all of them.

And afterwards we all headed out to a coffee shop just to talk to each other for awhile.

Did I say awhile? Two and a half hours later, my stomach hurting from laughing so much, I had to announce that I had to leave. I had to sing again the next day!

Now, my friend Josh is generally a quiet man. But he is SOOOOO easy to needle. And Craig and I have made it our mission in life to get under his skin. Well, at least embarrass him to death in public.


We decided that Josh had married an angel with great powers of transformation. Josh was wearing slacks and a NICE sweater. And no hat. His beard was trimmed and his hair was cut. One year of marriage and the man is nearly unrecognizable.

So we spent a goodly amount of time praising Heidi.

But then the conversation took its usual turn into Craig's stories. Most of them law related. But some having to do with his wife and his children.

AnnMarie's disbelief in the latest Craig story
And all along my new brother, Smitty, listened and laughed.

It had been a very hard night for Smitty. He misses Dan as much as I do. To see him laugh was golden music to my ears. He had been so impressed with the choir and now he fit in with my friends.

Before Smitty left that night, he told a story about my mother. He was fairly itinerant when he was single. He was trying different jobs and different places. But he was Dan's best friend. So my mother, who had just taken up oil painting, painted a picture for him. He sent it on to his mother for safekeeping. The painting hung in her house until her death and then went to his sister's home where it hung for the next 15 years. Smitty didn't know where it had gone as it was in a room at his sister's house that he never went into.

Today I receive a large package from Louisiana. I don't know anyone in Louisiana. Well, I didn't until now.

It was a picture of Jonathan Livingston Seagull with the initials "BG" in the bottom left corner. BG=Barbara Gisvold, my mother.

Jonothan Livingston Seagull by Barbara Gisvold
My friends had no idea that my mother painted but they were amazed by Smitty's stories. He didn't tell any of us that it was on its way.

It was soooo fitting that Jonathan should be part of a conversation of three lawyers who came from different backgrounds but who all had to find their way to their niche in life. We all had to spread our wings and ignore the naysayers.

It was a night. What a night.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Short Discussion

Today I went to talk to Dan.

Tonight we present our Christmas Concert at the Mission.

One year ago, Dan was there. Standing in the back on the left side. With all the ushers.

Tonight he won't be there.

So I went to talk to him about that.

I had just finished a wonderful 2 hour lunch with my friends from Bakersfield who came over for the concert. We had sat at a window seat at Steamer's and watched the ocean and the people on the beach.

We were two blocks from Dan.

So when I drove out of the parking lot, the car sorta just headed to Harloe.

I sat on the bench where we used to share our evening tea.

The Tea Bench

And I just talked to the place where we scattered his ashes.

Dan's iceplant
And I watched the ocean.

Pacific Ocean and Harloe Street
I told him to be at the concert. I think he heard me because when I left the car went to where Dan liked to be to think in the quiet.

The Monarch Butterfly preserve.

Butterfly Preserve
See the benches? That is where he sat. To think.

So peaceful and quiet.

I hope we pass that on to everyone tonight.

Dan would find that very important.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Smitty is here

He called yesterday to let me know that he and Jen were all snug in their room in Morro Bay and to give him a call when I was free.

But we had rehearsal. So I called and took them to the San Luis Obispo Farmer's Market. From there I could get to rehearsal at the Mission quickly.

The Farmer's Market is really a street party on SLO time. Food everywhere. Music on the side streets. All the stores are open and the vendors sell everything from soup to nuts (not an exaggeration!) And people meandering. Just strolling. Enjoying the sights and smells.

They loved it.

And the whole time we talked about Dan.

We talked about how rough this week has been.

We talked about their visit to Harloe Street where we had scattered some of Dan. (we laugh about Dan's "parts")

We stopped so I could grab a sandwich before rehearsal.

We talked and laughed.

We agreed to have them come by today and, when they did,  I took them up to a place in North County that I knew they would love. And they did.

Quiet, secluded, away from everyone and everything. We climbed a hill and viewed hills and valleys all around us. And we spoke of how Dan would have loved this space. This place of solitude.

Smitty and Jen will be at our concert tomorrow. They will be Dan's ears.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

One Year Ago

One year ago, it was Thanksgiving. Dan was worried that he wouldn't be able to be with us. Truckers didn't always have a choice on where they were on any given day.

But he was here.

And no one wanted to cook. We had decided weeks before that we would go to a restaurant.

It took a while to find an restaurant open on Thanksgiving. But we did.

We arrived a little ahead of our reservation that day. But we still had to wait about an hour. It was miserable on Mel. Very few chairs and those were of wood. It is tough for a man with severe back problems to sit on an cushioned chair. Especially for a long period of time.

So we stood and wandered and talked. And I got a picture.

Jed, Dan and Melodie on Thanksgiving 2010
Then we sat for a magnificent dinner. I don't remember what we ordered. (there were choices!) But I remember talking and laughing and feeling that the meal was very special.

It is etched in my memory now. Less than 3 weeks later he was gone.

And that meal became so very, very special.

This year is so very different. Jed is in San Francisco. Melodie is in Visalia. So it is just Mel and I.

But we decided that Dan would appreciate our new plan.

Bacon and waffles. At home. Watching football.

Yeah, Dan would have liked that.

Oh, God, I miss him.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Smitty called the other night. I didn't write about it then because, well, because I just couldn't.

Smitty was Dan' best friend. He knew Dan when things weren't goin' too good for Dan. And he knew him when Dan got it together. He was there when I wasn't and knows things that I don't.

So talking to him is always a revelation. Plus I love him dearly.

He is coming to California for the Vocal Arts concert on the third of December. He will be in the Mission and he will here the last song that Dan ever heard us sing--Shubert's Ave Maria.

Only this time, my son-in-law will be singing the solo. He was suppose to do that last year because his mom was there. (She hadn't heard him sing in concert for 20 years!) But he had pneumonia and could squeak out a note. He was crushed.

Ten days after that concert last year, Dan was gone. And in April Jed's mother died.

Jed will be singing to them this year. And Smitty will be there.

Even in rehearsal, I fight tears. This is gonna be a tough one.

But Smitty will be there as will a bunch of my friends.

This concert, in my mind, is for Dan.

I think he has a ticket.......

Monday, October 31, 2011


Somewhere, in a box, is a very old picture of Bill, Dan and Gael Ann dressed for Halloween. Our grandmother was a seamstress and she made all of our costumes.

Dan was a black cat. It was the most incredible black cat you have ever seen. Footed with a tight head cap and white mask. The tail went on forever.

And Dan as a cat was the epitome of cat.

Long and thin even as a kid, he LOOKED like a cat.

It was always a holiday that I looked forward to. Not because of the candy but because of the outfits. Nana made some outstanding costumes and we took pride in the fact that we were original. Every year.

So Halloween holds lots of memories. And this year they are mostly of Dan.

They make me smile.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Today I realized (again) how alone I feel without Dan in the world.

I was driving home, it was really hot for San Luis and I am listening to light classical music. It calms me on most days.

But today I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. And I realized that it was my grief. I haven't cried in a long time. It is like the lake that was my tears has dried up.

I felt like the weight that I carried was a soft blanket of tears. All locked in the fabric that draped over my shoulders.

It felt like my soul had become hard, dried and cracked.

I have been, for so long it seems, acting "normal" when I just feel terribly alone.

Dan isn't here and it hurts.

So I wear my blanket of tears and hope that no one notices.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Not a Day

I am sitting at lunch with my daughter and her friend and I made a rotten pun. I thought it was funny but the friend looked at me like I had a third eye. My daughter had to explain that punning was a necessary form of language for me.

And then she told her friend that being around Dan and I could be harmful to your funny bone. She told about how Dan and I would have whole conversations in pun. It could go on for hours. But usually one of us had to give up.

I don't know how in the middle of a day Dan pops up. But he does.

I sit here tonight and see Zelda sleeping on the floor and Dan's voice echos in my head--"She is taking the pause that refreshes" Zelda is our blonde cocker spaniel. Get it?

He would call and ask me if Zelda was pausing. I would crack up. Yes, I am easily amused.

But with Dan I was happy just having him around. Having him tell me bad puns and competing with him in that arena was something that made me very happy. It was a small thing. But it was part of Dan and I.

I miss him every day.

There is not a day that goes by that he is not in my thoughts.

And then I come home to see Zelda. And I pause and think of him again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Dan bought a bicycle when he moved into his apartment in Pismo Beach. It made it easy for him to get around the little town. He even road it to our house in Grover Beach once. (He said he would never do that again. There is a hell of a hill to climb between here and there. )

It wasn't anything fancy. A three speed with upright handlebars so he didn't have to bend over. It was a cool lookin' bike.

Except that he looked anything but cool on it. (I can hear him scoffing at me. "What's about cool? I don't have to look cool. **huff, huff**)

Dan was quite tall. The bike was a bit short. So he stuck out.

I mean literally. He was all knees and elbows.

You recognized him from half a mile away.

Flannel shirt, cowboy hat or trucker cap, knees and elbows sticking out everywhere.

It was a glorious sight.

He didn't care what he looked like. He cared about getting around and having fun doing it.

Yesterday I was driving home and, as is usual in San Luis, there were bicyclists riding on the same road. There are bike lanes and everyone shares the road here. So I normally don't notice anything unsual.

But yesterday, yesterday I almost stopped the car.

I was coming up behind him. The flannel shirt was flapping in the breeze. He was thin. His knees and elbows stuck out from a regular sized bike. He wore a straw cowboy hat.

My heart almost stopped.

And my first, my very first thought was, "He came back".

Then reality hit. And I kept going.

I didn't look at the man's face.

I want that man on that bike to be him. And if I don't look, if I don't look, if I don't see that it is not him, then I still have that fleeting moment when, for me, he was back.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Ave

Last night was our first rehearsal for the Christmas season.

Vocal Arts always starts the particular season sight reading our music. We haven't seen it before and, usually, we don't even know what songs we will be singing.

So the rehearsal is a bit rough. We listen to recordings of the song and then sing it. No separation of parts before hand. No playing of particular notes or clue as to how the song is suppose to go.

It is rough. And my definition of rough includes both 1) difficult and 2) uneven. The sound is not good.

It is the first step in learning difficult music. And our music is difficult.

It is a lot of fun as well. Talking to people you haven't seen all summer. Feeling the joy of singing. Sharing the feeling and sharing the news.

Our last song was one that we have been singing for a couple of years. It is now our signature song. It is Shubert's "Ave Maria"

Last Christmas Jed was to sing the men's part as a solo. His mother was going to be there and she hadn't seen him in concert for over 20 years. Jed was soooo excited.

Dan was at that concert and helped to get Jed's mom get around that night.

But Jed got laryngitis and couldn't sing.

Dan died 10 days later.

Jed's mom never heard him sing again. She passed away.

So last night, at a very rough rehearsal, Jed sang the "Ave Maria". He sang for his mom and he sang for Dan.

Jed was perfect. His beautiful tenor voice filled the room with perfect notes and perfect love.

And I cried.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Missing Him

I really miss him.

Somedays are better than others but yesterday was not good.

I wasn't doing anything special. As a matter of fact, I was doing nothing.

Mel and I were just talking about something when Mel went off on a political rant. That is perfectly ok and I listened for awhile.

Then I just heard Dan in his voice.

Dan use to rant about political issues when we talked on the phone. I could often put the phone on speaker and keep doing what I was doing. He never noticed. He just kept talking. I think the longest time I went without interrupting him was 20 minutes.

He, like my spouse, was passionate about life and people.

And so as Mel talked, I heard Dan. I saw Dan. I wanted to hug Dan. So much.

Mel kept talking.

I cried last night.

I really miss him.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Letter to Dan

Dear Daniel,

I am afraid that you must return to this Earth to take care of a matter of two. We have been receiving mail on your behalf and are at a loss as to how you wish us to handle the matters presented.

First, there is a bill from the radiologist in Corning, California. This is the group that took the initial MRI of your brain and found it to be severely damaged. Although you were still alive when you left Corning in an ambulance, the physician who read the MRI knew or should have known, that you would not survive.

Apparently, there has been a clerical error or the physician did not communicate to the billing department that you would be unable to render payment to them. We have explained the situation to the billing department on several occasions and even sent them a copy of your death certificate. They apparently like you so much that they want a framed original.

You would think they would call the radiologist from Redding  (who took another MRI and came to the same conclusion) and get an original themselves. By the way, the radiologist in Redding seems to have the same problem with their billing department.

So, if you don't mind, could you please come back and give these people a piece of your mind? I have done so (given them a piece of my mind) but they don't seem to listen to me.

I think it would really get them to listen if you could show up and tell them, first of all, that they did a great job. There wasn't much they could do for you, but they really, really tried. Then, would you please ask them to stop reminding me that you are not here?

I would really appreciate that.

All my love,

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bustin' His Buttons

Today I just image Dan watching his niece as she finishes her very last class in law school. He would have some smart remark for her that would let her know how proud he was of her. He, of course wouldn't tell her directly. That would be much to direct for him.

He would regale her with the story of her beating him at the card game of Concentration. She was 5.

He might tell her other stories as well. You see, Dan was the relative that entered her life and let her know that she wasn't alone. He was the one that reminded her of how bright she was and that she could do anything she wanted to do.

He was the one that said it was ok to be different.

He was the one that said it was ok to be strong.

He was the one that said it was ok to speak your mind.

He was the one that took her on her first motorcycle ride.

He expanded her mind with his knowledge of politics and history.

He enriched her life. He helped her grow.

And now she has completed law school.

He would be bustin' his buttons!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cell Phones

There are times that I reall, really hate my cell phone. I have become attached to it like an abusive partner. It goes with me everywhere.

My excuse is that my entire schedule is on it. As is my entire contact list for the business.But my biggest excuse is Dan.

I never knew when he was going to call so it was vital (I told myself) to have it with me.

I now cry "BullShit"!!

I kept it by my side because I wanted to talk to Dan.

He was the first call every morning as I drove out of the driveway. I would get the days news, the latest family gossip, and the best way in the world to wake up my brain. He would encourage me, goad me, and all around cheer me on to the day's business.

On weekends he would regale me with stories of the road or the latest political bonehead thing that was driving him crazy. (The latest budget thing would have given him a stroke anyway!!!) He would rant and rave about something and encourage me to become involved.

I joined Greenpeace because of one of those phone calls.

If we went more than two days without talking I knew that something was wrong.

It was so weird because I wouldn't want to talk to anyone but if Dan called I always found that I wanted to talk about what was going on with me or the family or him.

That is why I took the phone call the night that he died.

That is why my cell phone is still beside me.

He just might find a way to call. You never know.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Last night I lay in bed trying to sleep. It wasn't working too well. I had lots on my mind from work and couldn't find the off switch.

So I tried to think about places that were calming for me. And one popped into my head that I hadn't thought about for years.

It was 14 years ago. Dan was turning 50.

We were at a ranch on the eastern side of the Bitterroot range in Montana. There was no running water. No indoor plumbing. But miles and miles of pastures, trees, flowers, rivers and creeks.

We had taken a hike up the mountain to see what Dan called a golden forest. I didn't believe him.

We followed a dirt road for awhile. We saw a moose in the stream. He looked at us and then returned to drinking his fill.

Then we got to a grove of aspen. Higher up the mountain, it was now fall for them. And the sun glistened through the yellow leaves turning the earth into pure gold.

A golden forest.

I bent my head back and looked up. I saw the bluest sky with golden leaves moving slowly in a breeze that only the leaves felt.

I looked down and I stood on a carpet of gold.

None of us spoke while we were there. 

It was a calm, a peace that had no words.

I slept last night thinking of standing next to my brother in a golden forest. I was calm and at peace.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

He is still watching--now this is fun?

I am driving to the office today. I am minding my own business.

Of course I am driving from Santa Barbara so I am on the tail end of a 2+hour drive. I should be tired and thinking of anything but driving. Well, if I wasn't the sister of a long-haul trucker, that probably would be true.

But Daniel taught me to pay attention even when I am on the phone or thinking about spring in Kansas or whatever.

So when I noticed the smell of overheated breaks I really began looking around.

I am in the slow lane with my cruise control on 64. Exactly. There is a smaller red car on my left beginning to pass me. There is a truck with a trailer in front of me. A big trailer-either a horse trailer for 8 or a racing car trailer. It had dual wheels all around. And it gave off a puff of smoke.

Now we are going down hill but the grade is not steep and certainly not steep enough to burn brakes.

Little red car is now just ahead of me on my left. I am slowing down. Something is happening and I do not like it.

Truck pulls to the left to pass whatever is in front of it. It is now really smoking.

I continue to slow.

And the left rear tires of the trailer fly off! Straight towards the little red car. Which swerves into my lane.

Because my brother had taught me well. I was on the brakes before the tires left the vehicle. I knew where the little red car was going to go and I knew what to do.

I pulled over by the little red car and checked on the two girls who were in it. A bolt had hit their windshield but they were ok.

We all could have died.

But Dan was watching.

Friday, August 12, 2011

He's watchin' (and it creeps me out!!!)

Ok. I am going along, minding my own business.

I am working my ass off. And I get the news that as of October 1(because of new legislation) my job as attorney for parole violators is in serious jeopardy.

I freak out. Big Time.

That is a rather large chunk of the business budget and could cost Melodie her job.

Melodie freaks out. Big Time.

That afternoon I have a consult with a client and I am trying to figure out how to be presentable while hanging from the ceiling and wailing. (My usual freak out position)

I figure we will need sound dampening because Melodie is in the reception area in a fetal position and sobbing mightily. (Her usual freak out position)

My client comes in, and before I can say boo. Or boo-whoo. Says he wants to go to trial.

I am now stunned. But still on the ceiling.

Then his wife hands me a check for the amount that I had quoted some months ago. A quote given long before news of any financial crisis. Long before parole issues. Long before anything but an absolute calculation of the work I would have to put into the case.

It was a lot of work.

The check hit the table about the time I hit the floor. Melodie uncurled.

And I asked (not for the first time) "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" And I started into all the cons of going to trial.

And he said to me, "Something tells me this is what I have to do."

OK. So I exaggerate the story a bit. It is very hard to hang from the ceilings in my office. And Melodie does not sob.

But the point is that every time there is a crisis of any form, something happens to ease it.

Something comes along.

And it has happened alot since Dan died. And I know, in my bones, and in my soul, that he is watching.

Even as I hang from the ceiling. (A vision that I am sure he is laughing at!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Talkin' to Smitty

Dan would have been really happy that Smitty and I met.

He would have been even happier that Smitty and I instantly became family.

Smitty and Jean

Dan would have laughed that Smitty and I played phone tag on Dan's birthday and that we had to catch up to each other on the internet.

But I can see him grinning at our exchange.

I see his eyes twinkle at our lame jokes and feeble attempts at communication.

He knows that Smitty and I don't have to say anything to each other. He knows that we know.

We know what the other is thinking. Or feeling. Or just not able to express right at the moment.

It is strange but true.

I feel some of the closeness that I felt with Dan with this man that I have met twice in my life. He is now my new brother and he always will be.

Welcome to the family, Smitty. Sorry it took so long for me to say that.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Life as a Trucker

Dan would always bitch (not complain--BITCH) about the trucking industry. How his time was eaten by slow "lumpers" (guys who load and unload a truck), how he had to pay for load tickets (truck loaded improperly for weight per axle), how he had to run over his time limits to make deliveries. How he missed concerts and performances, graduations, and birthdays. All of it.

He often threatened to leave the truck and mail in the keys when he was so very, very frustrated.

I thought I understood where he was coming from, that I had a good handle on his day-to-day life.


Take a look at what he was talking about: (Jed sent me this and I bless him for it)


That was Dan's story. That was his life.

Please...Remember how your food gets to that grocery store, how your computer got to you, how the chair you sit in came to you. It comes by truck. Driven by a trucker. Who just wants to make a living and see his sister once in a while.

Don't flip him/her off. Give them a wave. And give them room.

Monday, August 1, 2011


My spouse is a man of few words. Very few. He is, by all accounts, including his, a hermit.

Dan use to call him "The Alleged Mel" because he never answers the phone and rarely appears in public. There are members of the Vocal Arts Ensemble who still doubt that I have a spouse since they have not seen him.

I consider him an internal knot untie-er. He takes a problem or a thought and internalizes it. Processes it. Mulls on it. Turns it over. Looks under the hood. Kicks the tires. Then decides the action that is required under the circumstances.

He is not "alleged"-- he is very real. And he has been with me for 20+ years.

So I know that when he says something, especially when he is otherwise engaged in reading or watching some intellectual program on TV, it means something.

I mentioned to him on Saturday that I was really missing Dan. His response was--"I say goodnight to him every night. I say goodnight to my mom. I say goodnight to my dad. And I always say goodnight to Dan"

I lost it.

On Sunday, as I am literally going to sleep at his side, my spouse looks up from his Kindle and says,

"Thinking about Dan gives me serenity. He was a hard working, honest man with a heart of gold. He only wanted to help people. There really are people like that in the world and I that gives me peace."

He had untied the knot.

It is really hard to go to sleep when you are crying.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sayin' Hi to Dodge

Dodge is Dan's great-grandson.

He was the apple of Dan's eye.

When Dan was on the road he would call and talk to Dodge when Dodge could only babble.

When Dodge got a little older he gave Dan a stuffed pig toy for Dan to carry with him in the truck. Dan would take pictures of where he was with the pig in the picture. He would send them to Dodge.

That pig stayed with Dan where ever he was. Truck, apartment, car, motorcycle.  There was the pig.

That was how he stayed connected. No matter where he was.

Yesterday I found another picture of Dan's cabin. The one he bought next to the family cabin. The one he was going to retire to.

Hello, Dodge.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Needles Lookout

There has always been a tradition, a rite of passage, if you will, about going to Camp Nelson.
Camp Nelson Cabin
This idyllic cabin hidden from the whole noisy world had payment to extract for long stays on its porches.

You see, you could sleep on that back porch until the sun or the squirrels awoke you. You could sleep in the hammock in the front yard whenever you wanted. You could catch a nap in the large, overstuffed rocking chairs. You could pretend to read in the shade of its oaks and pines.

But such relaxation must be paid for. In physical exertion.

Over Memorial Day, it is the cleaning of the yard and the cabin. If not clean of leaves, sticks and other flammable detritus the Forest Service will attack. (I was trying to think of a good comparison but none come to mind) They made us cut back the bear clover one year. Not even a sickle can cut bear clover. Trust me on that one.

During the summer, there is other payment to be made. Other physical payment.


Most trails around the cabin are fairly benign. The mountains are meant for climbing and a day trail is just that.

But THE NEEDLES is different.

And all novices to the hill (as we call it) are required to go there.

You can find it on Google Maps. It is the Needles Lookout overlooking the Kern River Valley.

It was built in 1937 as part of a line of lookouts to help with fire control. It turned into a major attraction for visitors who want to view the Sierra Nevada Mountains in all their glory. Rock climbers come just to climb its shear rock base.

Dan loved to go there. He said there was a different perspective on the earth from the top of a rock pinnacle where there is nothing but air underneath you.

The hike is relatively short. By lateral distance.

Horizontal distance is another thing.

I don't recall how many thousand feet you gain, lose and gain again as you hike the 5 miles to the stairs. But I can tell you that it is not as easy as it looks.

Then there are the stairs.

Dan could handle them without batting an eye. I, on the other hand, have found gods of all kinds while climbing the stairs.

Because you can see THROUGH the stairs. DOWN. Down about 1000 feet or so. STRAIGHT down.

For me to make it I had to follow someone and just watch their feet. I could not let go of the railing. And hope against hope that none of the wooden stairs were broken or wobbly.

But Dan would scamper up and down the stairs and just make fun of me.

When I got to the top, each and every time, I knew what Dan meant about perspective. At first, I would stand only in the middle of the little lookout. No walking on the catwalk like deck. But with Dan's urging and (ok, I admit it) his shaming me, I made it onto that deck.

It was something I can't describe. To see Mt. Whitney and the three sisters. To see the Kern River below. To watch peregrine falcons swooping and diving in the summer air. Oh, wow..... To see people climbing the rocks just below me. (They ARE crazy!) Amazing.....

But now it is gone. The government didn't shut it down. They still had a ranger living there. She had been there every summer for the last upteen years.

No. It burned. To the rock bed that it stood on.

 Yes, the ranger got out. And, no they don't know what caused it. At least not yet.

I know it will be rebuilt as it is so vital to the safety of fire crews, backpackers, and residents of the back country. But it won't be the same.

They may get rid of those stairs. And that would ruin all the fun of getting there.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Walkin' n' Talkin'

Jed and I went walking again today.

Early morning fog misted around us as we took to the "Bob Jones Trail" that goes from Highway 101 to Avila Beach. (look it up on Google maps-it is a 2.1 mile walk-one way)

It's mostly flat so we could go at a good clip and really talk the whole way.

And we talked about life.

We talked about Jed's mom and how much he missed her.

We talked about Dan and how much we both missed him.

And we talked about the one night that Jed's mom met Dan. The memory of that night was clearly etched in our brains. Jed was so ill. He had bronchitis and could not sing the solos that he had practiced for so long. Dan wore the same fancy cowboy shirt that he always wore to "dress up" occasions.

The walk was all about that connection.

We walked and we talked. And we remembered. Together.

Family is good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Little Things

When Dan lived in Montana he had a regular run from Missoula to Seattle. He would drive to Seattle and stay the night in a motel and drive back the next day.

He would always take the little bottles of shampoo and cream rinse. And the little soaps.

He kept them in a bag. He never used them.

Just to be clear, he used his own shampoo and soap. But taking the little bottles and soaps was important to him.

I thought he was nuts. (well, that discussion could go on for days...)

Until I was with him when he would drop off the full trash bag at the local homeless shelter.

That's how he gave back. Little things of soap and shampoo.

So now I do the same thing now. I take them to homeless shelters and women's shelters.

Next time you find yourself in a motel and you don't use all the little things they give you, save them. Put them in a bag and take them to the ones who need them.

Dan would really like that.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It Never Goes Away

I was talking to brother Bill the other day. That is one good thing that has come from Dan's death.....Bill and I actually talk to each other.

We got to talking about patterns of life and how we fall into them. Some pretty serious stuff. Not the usual how's life, what are the kids up to, what's happening to the cabin kind of things that we generally talk about. And definitely not Bill's golf game!

And he started to talk to me about his first wife, Bernadette. She died of stomach cancer when their youngest was only 12. He talked about how little they had in common. He talked about how they made it work. I could hear the pain in his voice.

And then I asked the question.

"It never goes away. Does it."

It was a statement that required an answer.

Bill stopped, paused for a few seconds, and then said, "No, it never does."

The loss of my best friend, my confidant, my brother. That loss will be with me forever. I can't bring Dan back.

I see him in my mind. I remember lots of times with him. But he will never stand beside me again.

I will never drink sassafras tea with him again.

That loss will never go away.

But I am not sad that it stays. I am glad.

I am glad that I will have him in my heart forever.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

He was here

I haven't written about Dan in awhile.

It is not because I don't think about him. I rarely stop thinking about him.

But my thoughts are not conducive to writing.

I see a truck on the highway and I feel Dan in it. I see a motorcycle and I see Dan on it. I hear a piece of music and I listen through his ears.

Everyday as I drive past the expansive view of the Pacific Ocean near where he lived, I think of him.

I don't keep sassafras tea in the house anymore. The constant reminder was overwhelming.

But yesterday I was sitting in my chair watching the British Open (golf not tennis!) and I could have sworn he was there. On the couch. Watching Tom Watson make a hole-in-one.

I could have sworn it.

I felt his presence so keenly. But so fleetingly. Like a soft breeze on my soul.

I didn't move. I didn't look at the couch. I just smiled a little and remembered him. Here.

Not on the road.

Not in the audience.

But on my couch. Those long legs crossed at the ankles on the ottoman. The dogs begging to sit with him.

It was all so clear and so very fleeting.

I hope he drops by again.

Monday, July 4, 2011


I saw a flash mob on You Tube tonight. It was a band in a grocery store playing John Phillip Souza. And the memomy that it brought was....
Well, I wish I had a picture.

There is one in my head.

Dan with his trombone. In his Lindsay Cardinal Band uniform. Tall, lanky, grinning with a gleaming trombone in arm.

It always seemed fitting that he played the trombone. It was as long and lanky as he was. And the uniform was, of course, red and white. You could not miss that tall, stickbird in the back two rows of the band.

He was the reason that I wanted to be in a band. They didn't like to let girls play brass in those days so I grabbed a clarinet. Oh, I am sure I did it to get attention away from him. But to be honest, I envied his ability to play an instrument.

Just like I envied his ability to make friends. I could never make friends like that.

People knew that I was a spoiled little brat. Dan was just down to earth and real. That is what I was so jealous of. It took me years to be real.

But Dan did it from the beginning. It was the trombone that reminded me. And the flash mob being so "normal" in an abnormal setting.

It was so "Dan".

He was really good on that trombone.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

More Music

I was listening to a friend backstage tonight. She was saying how she wished her mother had come out for the California International Choral Festival. The choirs were all great and we were all having fun.

And my brain said, "I wish he was here"

He would have loved the international aspect. He would have loved the folk songs. And he would have been flattened by the talent that was on the stage.

In my mind, I can see him there.

Too tall to fit in the seats. Wearing jeans and his favorite cowboy style shirt. And hushpuppy shoes.

He would have talked to all the singers, no matter what their language.

He would have gone to every party and get together.

He would have wanted to learn as much as he could about the guys from the Philippines who actually worked in Saudi Arabia but had spent the last year or so touring in the United States.

He would have wanted to know all about the African customs that the Congo group brought with them.

Heaven forbid, he would still be there talking and learning and it is nearly midnight now.

But he would have sunk into the music, the sound, the vibration, the movement of it all. He would have become one with each and every note.

Yes, I wish he was here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

He is at Rest

Smitty, Jeanine, Melodie and I went to the end of Harloe street in Pismo Beach this morning. It was cool and foggy. A typical June day on the Pismo Beach cliffs.

We climbed through the fence that is meant to keep people off the crumbling bluffs. We stood on the ice plant and looked down onto the receding Pacific Ocean.

We talked about Dan. I showed them where his little apartment was.

We watched the waves roll in and out. We talked. Smitty apologized for not having talked to me for 38 years. I laughed at him.

I thanked him for being my brother now.

He told us that in every conversation that he had with Dan, Melodie and I were mentioned.

I gave him the tin that held the last bit of Dan's remains. We all cracked up. It was a Christmas tin with a Santa Claus on it. Totally inappropriate for anyone else. But not for Dan.

And Smitty scattered him in the ice plant. "I know where to come visit you now" was all he said.

And then we began to tell Dan stories.

Smitty was full of them. A beat up Volkswagon looking for a blues singer in Hamburg, Germany. Driving a 1953 truck without lights, at night, in California and being stopped by the CHP in 1971.

We stood there for an hour. And then we had to go.

But Dan is there. At the end of Harloe Street. Where he and I drank sassafras tea and solved the problems of the world.

He will rest there. And Smitty and I will visit him. And talk to him. And talk about him. And remember him.

My new brother and I will remember our old brother for as long as we live.

At the end of Harloe Street.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Band of Brothers

He found out that Dan was dead because he went looking for him on the internet. He was unable to reach him by phone and he was concerned. He didn't have any other family member's numbers so he went hunting. He found this blog. And he was devastated.

He had known Dan since 1970 when they met in Germany. Dan was in the Air Force and he was in the Army. They were both from the San Joaquin Vally. Dan from Lindsay and he was from Coalinga. The closest he ever got to Lindsay, before he met Dan, was in a high school baseball game in Tulare.

But being in the service in the 70's brought them together for a lifetime. For Dan's lifetime.

This is Smitty.

Smitty and his wife Janine (hope I spelled that right)
He could not make it to Camp Nelson for the Farewell. But he came here. To San Luis Obispo. To see me. To talk to me and my family. About Dan.

And talk he did.

He talked about hitting the skunk with my mother's car and my mom making them buy cases of tomato juice and scrubbing the undercarriage of the car with it. Then making them lunch.

He talked about hanging out in Sacramento.

He talked about Dan coming to visit him in Minneapolis.

He talked about Dan's intellectual curiosity.

He talked about Dan's love of music. He talked about how Dan talked about Vocal Arts. He promised to send me links to cd's that Dan had sent him.

He talked about how Dan could make a friend out of just about anybody.

He talked about how Dan was the most intelligent, smart, articulate truck driver on the planet.

Smitty talked for a long, long time. His very best friend, his brother was gone.

Smitty is coming to the Vocal Arts Ensemble rehearsal tonight.

Smitty has a new friend. It is me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Biggest Fan

I was reminded today that my brother was my biggest fan.

He once told me that I could go sell my body on a street corner if that was what I wanted to do. He might come beat the holy crap out of me but he would still be my biggest fan.

I never forgot that.

I will always know that my brother was ALWAYS there for me.

I know that he still is--in my heart and in my brain. Every morning as I still reach for the phone to call him, every night as I drive home past the stunning view of the Pacific Ocean meeting the shore at Pismo Beach.

He is always with me.

And yet, today, I miss him more than ever.

I miss his humor. I miss his wisdom. I miss his voice.

Oh, god, I miss his voice.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Keeping Safe

I was driving to work today. Minding my own business. Listening to something on the radio.

And I pass a semi-truck.

And Dan flashes in my brain.

Just a flash. Seeing him driving with his knees while he makes a turkey sandwich and talks to me on the phone. (Kinda scares ya, don't it?)

I kinda smile and go back to the minding my own business and listening to the radio. It is satellite and I have it on the Bridge or some such thing. I am more concerned with the Chevy that keeps speeding up and slowing down and the Kia that is so close to my bumper that I can tell the color of the driver's lipstick! (Back off, lady!)

And a Harley-Davidson motorcycle passes me. It is a man in full leather. Riding tall.

Dan and I on his Harley. He hadn't finished putting on his leathers.

My heart just does a little squeeze. He knew what he was doing and he was doing it well. So like Daniel.

Right behind that guy is a young guy on a small bike. No leathers. Hunched.

I am hoping his family never has to hear that he was scraped off the road.

I could hear Daniel screaming at him. Daniel was about being safe on the bike. He was about keeping everyone safe on the bike.

Somehow, even knowing that he was driving with his knees, I know he had every truck he drove safe.

Sometimes I dread driving anywhere. There are so many memories of him on the road. Every truck. Every bike.

I can't drive when I cry. So I just sorta smile.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I haven't been able to write about what I have been feeling. It is just under the surface and bubbling. It won't let go but it won't let me express it.

Some of it appears to be sadness. That makes sense. I miss my brother. I miss the time that I had with him. I miss talking to him. I miss being with him.

Some of it is hopelessness. There is a sense in me that it won't get any better. That the hole in my soul will never heal, never get smaller, never loosen its grip on me.

Part of it is joy. A true sense that I had a relationship with my brother that is rare and oh, so special. He was an individual, a one of a kind, a man with a heart and a head, a man with demons that I knew and that he helped me embrace. There is a great deal of joy that I embrace that relationship.

Part of it is anger. A real anger that there is such a thing as death. A real, honest, unbelievable anger that Dan is not coming back. Some of that anger is at myself for not doing or saying lots of things to and for Dan.

All of it makes for a crushing grief. A mixed bag of feelings and issues that I think I understand but truly don't.

The best explanation, the best way to see what it is that I feel is to look at the picture of Bill at the campfire circle at Camp Nelson.

We were trying to get snow covered wood to burn and, of course, it smoked a lot. But we all just stood our ground when it came our way. We stood and stared into the fire and kept our thoughts to ourselves

I asked Bill if the planning of the Farewell just made the hurting start all over again for him. It did.

I know he is feeling the same internal volcano that I am feeling now.

I miss my brother.

Monday, May 30, 2011


The front of our cabin at Camp Nelson has looked the same for over 50 years. We tried to dress it up with a bit of flowers and some old chairs, but it is Camp Nelson, the place that every child in the family learned about "clean dirt". Camp Nelson dirt was not like dirt you got into at home. You didn't get yelled at for tracking it into the cabin. You were suppose to track it into the cabin.

Yesterday was suppose to be clear and cool at the cabin. It was most definitely cool. Clear? Not so much.

We gathered the day before--My brother Bill and his wife Kathy.

His four daughters, one of them with spouse and three children in tow. They all come from the Bay area. My two cousins. Patty from Mexico and David and his wife from near Sacramento. We sat 12 for dinner in a one room cabin. Cosy is sometimes a good word.

Then there was the "family" from Camp Nelson. People we had known all our lives. Lynnda from next door whose grandmother bought our family cabin and then sold it to my father to get it back in our family. Garrett, whose father grew up with me. Doug, who became a great friend over a campfire 35 years ago. They joined up for the traditional campfire and s'mores. And stories. So many stories.

Breakfast was to be at 8. If you have not had pancakes made with soda water you ain't had pancakes. Now it has to be Camp Nelson soda water right out of the spring. Bill, Dan and I refused to drink the stuff unless mom made a Lemon Fizz. Soda water, lemon juice (fresh) and sugar. Lots of sugar. The sugar made the soda water fizz. We thought it was cool. (Just don't use the soda water in scotch. The mineral content is so high that it reacts with the scotch and turns it black. Yuk!!)

Anyway, pancakes and bacon for god knows how many.

People came and went. Four cases of beer, 4 cases of soft drinks and 4 cases of water sat on the deck. We had 60 lbs of ice for them but, well, it started raining about 3 in the morning and about 10 it was snowing.

SNOWING!!! On Memorial Day!!!! The average temperature is usually in the high 70's. Jed only brought shorts. SNOW WAS NOT IN THE FORECAST!

Speaking of Jed, he had never been in a snowfall. He comes from the Central Coast. He never went to the snow. He was not an athlete so skiing was not his thing. He was a kid in a candy store.

And then, around 2pm Bill called the room to order. Fifty people in a small cabin to say Farewell to Daniel.

And everyone of them talked about his huge heart. Everyone talked about how he gathered friends. Everyone talked about how intelligent he was. "The smartest trucker I ever knew!" declared one of his nieces.

Melodie talked about how he tried to make her less serious by using the Fred and Ethel names. (See my Fred and Ethel post) She used the name as her on-line law school name because she was afraid she would give a stupid answer to a question. Turns out her professor complimented her on her answer!

Kathy Thompson told the story about Dan driving her and her girlfriend down the road at over 100 miles an hour and getting stopped by the local gendarme! Dan had to go in front of the local judge who was the father of Kathy's girlfriend!

I didn't know that story!

And our dear friend Jon Awbry told of the time that Dan found some short skis that Jon could strap to his full leg cast so they could still go skiing! Jon had just had surgery for a major break and had a pin in his leg! But up they went to Wolverton. And the first person they run into is the surgeon who put the pin in his leg! Just a little duct tape!

Jon told me privately later that he and Dan had "interviewed" my first "older" boyfriend. Apparently, Joe Kubicek got the third degree from Dan and Jon. He passed. I was allowed to date him AND Jon and Dan got him into DeMolay!

Another story I didn't know.

Dan's high school classmates showed up. Some from as far away as Vacaville. They told stories while we socialized and shared memories of our house in Lindsay and the many, many things that we all did together. It didn't matter what your age was. Sharon Moore, Donna Manuel, Mack Sprague, Bobby Hubbard, Susan McFadden. I am sure I have forgotten to mention someone. Please forgive me.

I told everyone there that Dan was my brother, my best friend and my confidante. Then I talked about his love of music.

Dan told me once that he was my biggest fan. And he was. I told all of them that.

I told them about wasting time pretending that he didn't exist when we were little.

And I played the Vocal Arts Ensemble singing Danny Boy.

And then we took Dan to his favorite places.

The soda spring near the cabin.

And the camp fire ring.

Today we came home. It was sunny.

He has got to be up there laughing his ass off. Of course, he may have been busy taking care of bikers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I think Dan is pacing tonight. And mumbling to himself.

We are all getting ready to go to the Cabin on Saturday for his Farewell on Sunday.

It is turning into a TA-DO. Dan hated TA-DO's.

Not just the planning but the running around getting things done so you could go get the things that you needed to prepare for the TA-DO.

Then the TA-DO itself. All that family. The kind that gets together at weddings and funerals and talks behind everyone else's back about how strange you are or how not normal you are or what ever the flavor of the month gossip is.

Good grief, he hated it. He loved his family but in bits and pieces. And some bits and pieces were just family.

Everyone has been through this.

But this time it is about him. And he would REALLY hate it.

When we celebrated his 50th birthday in Montana everyone went to a ranch on the east side of the Bitterroots. Running water but no indoor plumbing. Our aunt refused to spend the night saying she grew up using an outhouse and she wasn't going to use one again! The woman got it. She left to find a motel.

But it was not a TA-DO. No phone calls about who was doing what on what day, who was bringing what, who was in charge of what. We just went up there and made do with what was there.

Dan was a seat of the pants kind a guy.

At some point he will stop pacing and start laughing. He will get the joke.

I get it.

I will go to the river with Melodie and Jed and let go of his earthly remains with a grin. a song and a giggle.

No TA-DO. That will be going on up the hill somewhere.

And the gossip about the odd ball family members will continue unabated. ;-)

Monday, May 23, 2011

He is Mocking Me!!!

Today was not the best of days. It wasn't horrible but it was certainly out of whack.

First, I have to go to the court in Santa Maria. This is usually an ordeal. But not today. In, out, done. Judge was very nice and even greeted me with a smile and wished me a good day.

I should have known that something was up.

Somewhere, something started poking at me. I decided I was pissed at somebody for doing something or not doing something. It isn't important who or what. I just decided to be pissed. Maybe having a judge smile at me is more than my psyche can take.

I finally, after a bit of cell phone psychotherapy, figure out that Dan's upcoming soiree at Camp Nelson has me a bit on the upset side. I am really pissed at Dan for dying. I am really pissed at me for not saving the whole goddamned world and Dan in it and if the stupid SOB had thought about it for one second he wouldn't have had a leaky brain in the first place!!!!!!!!

So I go through the rest of my day just kinda pissed off at everyone and everything. I don't yell or snap or do anything like that. True to form I just internalize the whole business making myself miserable and trying to avoid everyone I know so I can continue to be miserable without anyone noticing so I can feel sorry for myself because no one notices me.

Got that?

So I start learning the part to the song that Melodie, Jed and I are going to sing at the Farewell. It is the arrangement of Parting Glass that the Wailin' Jennys sang when Dan and I wen to see them in Arroyo Grande. I am singing the middle part which is difficult for me as I know the melody by heart and learning another version is tough.

So on the way to Santa Barbara later on Melodie and I are singing the song. I am getting it all wrong and I am so frustrated. So I sing it alone to see if I can set the part in my brain and I do ok. We discuss it and decide that no matter how it comes out it is for Dan.

Just then, I see a Reddaway truck coming onto the freeway next to us. Dan use to drive for them. For years. And the driver of that truck was eating an ice cream cone. From Foster's Freeze-Dan's favorite ice cream place in SLO. Melodie and I busted out laughing.

He had been messin' with me all day.

It is time to let it go. As best as I can, Dan. As best as I can.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Closer to Farewell

I am sitting here trying to work. It ain't workin'

This next weekend I will be in Camp Nelson. I will be saying goodbye.

I don't want to.

I have found a nice, dry place to ignore the pain and the loneliness. I go to work, I talk to my daughter, I sing, I take care of my dogs and my husband. I have a "usual" life.

I can pretend that Dan is just gone for awhile. I don't actually say that to myself. I know the thought is silly. I know he isn't in his truck where there is no cell phone service. But I sorta, kinda pretend that is the case. I just don't let my brain say it.

It is nice and dry here. There is nothing spectacular to tell Dan, nothing out of the ordinary to share with him. So I don't need to call. I don't need to hear his voice. I don't have to think about it. I don't have to feel anything.


Somehow I think that arriving at Camp Nelson will bring rain. Big, huge drops of rain to my dry place. I think I will have to listen to the voice in my head that says "you CAN'T call, you CAN'T hear his voice."

And I don't want to go there.

I want to go to Camp Nelson and see him there. I want to know that this was all a big joke of some kind. I want to know that he is still part of this planet in a very concrete way.

This is gonna be very, very hard.

Monday, May 16, 2011

When you Least Expect It

I have been going about my days "as usual". I think about Dan and I have written about him. We are still planning the Farewell at Camp Nelson on Memorial Day.

Melodie and I keep working. We don't talk about Dan much. Even though he is always there. We discuss work or the next thing we plan to do. It is back to "normal".

Then Melodie sends me this link. And I must think, again and again, about what I choose and what Dan chose.


Punny How that Works

Dan's favorite form of humor--the almighty pun.

He could and would make a pun out of about anything. And it drove Melodie crazy. She rarely stoops to a pun but when she does it is a zinger.

When Melodie first met Jed and introduced me to him the man made a pun joke. Melodie groaned and I remarked that we needed Dan present. When the two men finally met, it was....well, it was groansome.

Dan and I and Jed and Dan would have whole conversations in pun. It might start with the word corn and end with the word airplane. And believe me there was a long, long conversation in between.

So imagine my surprise when I read the following NPR story about a National Pun Championship! If we had only known, we would have sent Dan.


Have a great time with this and think of Dan. He is somewhere laughing about the whole thing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Back to the Ocean

Driving back home tonight from an evening with the incarcerated. Talking to my clients on a Sunday evening gives them a feeling that they are not forgotten.

I can see how they would feel that way. As I waited to be released from the attorney room (yes, they lock us in there) I had a view of a locked metal door with a metal flap on it. There was a towel rolled up at the base of the door. It was an isolation cell. No natural light. No moving air. The towel is to block both. No control over anything. The jailers control the light, the water in the sink and the toilet. No stimulation whatsoever.

I knew that there was a human in that room.

And there was nothing I could do about it.

I left feeling angry and frustrated and wondering why I do this (again)

And as I got to the "really nasty part of that feeling sorry for myself in this position" thing, I came around the corner that gave me a view of the Pacific Ocean at Pismo Beach.

It was almost 8 o'clock and the sun was down. But the light gave the ocean a teal green hue that sparkled like the London Topaz that I wore on my left ring finger. And I thought of Dan.

And I thought of the Cheese Ball (see earlier posts) and the fact that going out on Sunday made somebody feel better and that Dan always encouraged me to do that.

And then he would have a cup of tea ready for me at the end of his road and we would watch the Ocean. The Great Pacific Ocean.

And we would be reminded that we are very, very tiny.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Dan really liked Melodie's husband, Jed. He is smart, quick with a pun, loves Melodie to death (an expression only, thank you), knows his way around a computer and other geeky stuff, AND he can sing.

One thing that Jed likes to do but that Melodie hates is hiking. I really like hiking but I am, well, I ain't a spring chicken anymore. Dan loved just walking around. You couldn't call it hiking because he had a stride that was three times that of anyone else so hiking for us was walking for him.

But I digress.

Today Jed and I went hiking/walking in the Montana de Oro park near Morro Bay. For those of you who have no idea what that means, here is a representative picture of the area.

On the trail above the Pacific Ocean, Montana de Oro, 2011

It was gorgeous! And at 8 in the morning it was chilly and free of other people.

We kept commenting on how amazing the landscapes and seascapes were as we passed. We often stopped to take pictures and I even got one of Jed.

Jed, Montana de Oro, 2011

Dan often mentioned his awe of the power of the ocean. As we sat at the end of his street and drank tea at the end of the day, we witnessed the erosion to the cliffs in Pismo. But it was even more pronounced in Montana de Oro.

Montana de Oro, 2011
This picture shows the ocean rising into an area where there is a cavernous area behind the large rock area. All the edges were clearly eroded away by water. It was amazing.

Both Jed and I wished Dan could have seen it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pissed Off, Again

I haven't written here in a few days and I couldn't figure out why I couldn't put words to paper (so to speak)

I had time. I was moving the office but I sat at my computer at night. My mind was generally a blank and I just let it be.

Then tonight, I am playing some silly game and I started to cry. Tears just started down my face.

No foreplay, just tears.

Now where in HELL did this come from- says my silly brain.

And then it comes.


I am pissed at my parents for not taking better care of Dan when he was a kid. (Revisionist history is in full swing)

I am pissed at my other brother for not doing something that relates to Dan (Imaginary history is running a close second)

I am pissed at my self for not noticing that he wasn't feeling well. (Revisionist and Imaginary combining into a really nasty dose of self-pity)

And after I get through that whole thought process and analysis, it comes down to one simple thing. One very, very simple thing.

I miss my brother. And that pisses me off. And when I get this pissed, I cry.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mama Bear

Dan always laughed at how protective I could get about my daughter and about him. Someone wants to hurt my family I turn into the proverbial Mama Bear.

Melodie was always embarrassed if I showed up at her school to talk to a teacher or a principal. They were in for it about something that was going on with her. One time, and Dan laughed really hard about this one, a teacher accused Melodie of plagiarism because a seventh grader didn't know the words that she used in her term paper.

I cam unglued. I took my daughter's IQ scores (not that they meant anything to me-but I knew that they would to this teacher) and some of our personal library that Melodie regularly read. I sat in the principal's office and read off the recommendations of her former teachers. Then I asked her if she had read any of the books that I had brought along. The teacher slunk out of the room. The principal was red faced.

Melodie was transferred to an AP class. Where she should have been.

I tell you all of this because there were times, in the last year of Dan's life, when I felt the same way about him. There were people who did not have his best interests at heart and I was willing to take them on. Head on.

He got in my way. He didn't want me to. So I didn't. I seethed and fretted. But I shut my mouth.

God is that hard for an attorney. Much less a Mama Bear!

I am reminded of this today as we set up the new office. I want my child safe. And her office is open.
Melodie and Jeff Buckingham
So, out comes the landlady  and blinds are going into the office.

It's nice to know I still have it!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Leon Redbone

Dan loved music. All kinds of music.

He loved Willson and McKee

He loved the Vocal Arts Ensemble

He loved Leon Redbone.

And tonight I had a date with my spouse to go to dinner with our children and share and evening with Leon Redbone.

The kids had no idea who he was. His music wasn't on their radar. But I thought I would introduce them to something a bit different.

I don't know if they liked it.

I know I did.

I know that Dan would have savored every minute.

This You Tube video has the same setting and one of the songs he sang tonight.


It was wonderful to watch him in person and feel Dan so close.