Saturday, March 11, 2017


In a year of sad goodbyes, we have another. We recently said good bye to Phil’s father and the kids’ Opa. It’s hard to think back to the different versions of Opa we knew over the years, the versions before he was Opa. When he was just Phil’s Dad, loaning us his car when he moved overseas and packing it with small pieces of furniture he didn’t want (and we still use to this day). When he was living in Paris and letting us crash at his centrally located apartment. When he was giving me jewelry, telling me the idea was that jewelry would always hold some value and could be sold for cash if needed. But once we had kids, he became Opa, telling them family history, taking them up to the castle and walking with them to playgrounds.
We have fond memories of all those activities in Heidelberg, Opa’s last home. We grew to love a very German playground on the other side of the Neckar River from his apartment. When the kids were very young, walking there was a full day’s activity. This last trip in February the trip there was just a few minutes. But once there the rides, the crazy teeter totter swing and the climbing rocks were just as adventurous, really dangerous as I remembered! We also liked the playground very near Opa’s apartment and had fun taking our young nephew there to play. We all smiled a little sadly as we realized our kids were too old/big for that playground but all was made better as our youngest family member explored the space with passion.
Opa’s memorial was at a hillside cemetery in central Heidelberg. The service was solemn and sad, as it has to be, but reminded us of a much different time. Just outside the cemetery, there is a car service station. Years ago, we stopped there with our well used blue Touran (VW’s small minivan) and Opa. We picked him up and were driving to the mountains. But as we drove into town, the back of the Touran popped open. Adam was sitting back there and we just told him to hold on and not to fall out. We made it to town, picked up Opa and drove straight to the service station. I don’t think they fixed it- perhaps a part had to be ordered? But we definitely drove to the mountains with everyone. We ate dinner at a restaurant high in the hills, in a dining hall of wooden tables and pewter place settings. Opa ordered the fish and the kids watched amazed as he ate every bite.
After Opa’s service, we shared a coffee and cake with family and friends, as is the German practice and one that Opa held near and dear. He liked the thought of the kids getting a treat and often bought them gelato. But in true Opa fashion, you could not let your guard down. One time, all the kids standing on the street in Hamburg with gelato cones in hand, he tricked Adam into looking the other way. Adam looked and Opa licked his cone. The kids were shocked and took a step away. They soon came close again, as Opa told them almost risqué stories and passed out clean crisp Euros in envelopes.
We all spoke recently of Opa’s 80th birthday celebration, almost five years ago. At the dinner, Royce recited a poem in German and the elderly crowd applauded. Tori recited a poem in Chinese to a silent room. She immediately adjusted and said a poem in German to applause. Adam sang the Happy Birthday song in English. Opa was equally proud of all. Afterwards, we marched around the block, sort of birthday parade with someone carrying a boom box, blaring jazz. We passed a tattoo parlor and Adam tried to convince Opa to get a tattoo. He might have just gone for it too but they were closed.

Friday, March 10, 2017


Spoken at Stacey's Memorial; January 26, 2017

Stacey has long been my dearest friend. It was my great fortune that our paths crossed thirty years ago as freshmen undergraduates at Berkeley. She was then and always a delight to be around; funny and fun, interesting and interested and so very smart.  We spent much time discussing everything as college kids do and then continued the conversation.
Stacey was the cool kid. Cool in the Obama sense of the word. Cool in the face of my dramas, with twins and many international moves. But also cool in the cultural sense. One of her mix tapes, circa graduate school, is epic, the soundtrack of my life.
Stacey challenged me. Years ago, we read the OED that her parents got her together. This year she forced me to get a poetry app as she has always felt my poetry reading to be lax.
Stacey comforted me. During a difficult mid-winter move to Munich, Stacey was endlessly optimistic when no one else was. She of course learned enough German in a matter of weeks, whereas over 4 years, I never really did.
She had a particular way of blending more academic statements with more cultural references that always made me laugh. Stacey was so intellectual and curious she made all of life seem like those deeply felt impassioned college days.
More recently, I have lived in Hong Kong and Munich and it would have been easy to follow out of steady contact but it never happened. Through it all, Stacey was a true and loyal friend. And I will do the same now. Though the distances are greater than ever before, I will always be thinking of Stacey. Remembering our many good times and talking to her in my heart.