John’s story
Sunday November 06th 2022, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I’d never heard him speak publicly about it before. For years they didn’t want to, understandably.

But announcements were made about the 35th anniversary of the annual creche exhibit our church puts on the first weekend every December.

And thus of their son’s accident.

John was twelve, and he and his little brother were on their skateboards crossing the busy street that runs just behind their house and on their way home when a drunk driver blew through her red light. The younger brother took a glancing blow; John took the full force.

I was at that creche exhibit when they suddenly interrupted the crowd to explain that they’d just gotten word: would everybody, of their faith or other faith or of no faith but willing to Think Good Thoughts, be willing to kneel together with them and join with them as they offered a prayer for John?

And so we did. The feeling of hundreds of hearts calling out together towards someone else’s child was a powerful experience never to be forgotten.

It did not look good. But he was still hanging in there.

The thing, though, is that what his dad did for a living as a neuroscientist was to try to help people recover from major brain injuries. His biggest fear as a parent had always been that such might happen to one of his children, and now here it had.

John was in a coma, and his dad knew that every day in that coma was a step away from future recovery.

Two weeks later, he did wake up. He had aphasia. Language, both giving and receiving, was scrambled.

And now here’s where part of my story sneaks a word in (though I didn’t interrupt his to say it.) I had a kid in kindergarten (edit: first grade) and two preschoolers and a friend in the ward had a two year old. Lisa thought we should go visit John at Children’s Hospital in Oakland (the one at Stanford not having been built yet.)

So we did. Once a week we piled in a car during school hours and drove an hour each way to go visit him, one at a time per the rules while the other entertained the littles in the lobby. We became very close during all this.

Lisa had been a cop in Hayward in a previous life so one day when a bad accident entirely shut down the freeway, the only day John’s mom was unable to go see her son, Lisa said, Turn off at that ramp I know all the back roads we can do this, and so John was not left alone that day after all. We made it through.

He spent six weeks in brain rehab and all in all it was I think three months before he was able to come home.

His dad said he went through special ed from there on out and it took him six years to graduate from college–but he did it. He’s married to a wonderful woman now and they have two little boys.

I remember the description of the entire middle school turning out to welcome him back, festooning his wheelchair with enough helium balloons to look like the house in the movie Up.

A year later I was diagnosed with lupus. I’m allergic to all NSAIDs and my arthritis was so severe I was eating with plastic utensils because I couldn’t lift the metal ones. I got told the best thing I could do for it was to start going to a warm indoor therapy pool nearby that was only open to those with a doctor’s prescription to get in.

I had two preschoolers. How on earth was I going to pay for a sitter every day?

Lisa took a deep breath and said, Tell you what: I’ll watch yours if you’ll watch mine right after while I work out in a gym.

She gave me the gift of her mornings Monday through Friday for two years. I could never ever have asked anybody that, but she offered and she did it and our boys grew up as brothers for that time. I expected to keep doing that for her as my youngest went off to kindergarten and she had two more children, but it was not to be; they moved to Michigan.

So. John’s dad told his story. His greatest fear had come true. The whole world had turned out in support in such amazing, inspiring, wonderful ways and his son was so happy being a dad and husband.

When he got done telling this, I asked for the mic.

And what I said was not all the stuff about me nor Lisa at all, but this: that about six years later, during the holiday season, I had been stuck in the backup of an Avoid the 13 sobriety checkpoint where they stopped every car on the main drag and made everyone wait to be checked out by the police to make sure they were driving sober.

The kicker is that they were holding it exactly where John and his brother had been hit, and that went deep for me.

Those checkpoints were deeply unpopular (and sued over) and I knew it.

So I found myself sitting down one day and writing a letter to the police department (by hand in those days!) to be a rare voice of support, telling them it was important to me that they did that.

I hadn’t planned on saying it when I sat down to write but it demanded that I add it, so I did: I explained that my friends’ 12-year-old son and his brother had been hit by a drunk, at that very intersection as a matter of fact, and John had not been expected to survive.

But he did, I said, thanking the first responders; I just wanted you to know he’s in college now.

I sent that off and thought, well, that’s that. Didn’t expect to hear anything back.

A heartfelt letter from the chief of police showed up in the mail.

That checkpoint had been set up where those boys had been hit specifically in John’s memory.

And he told me:

I was the cop who had to knock on that family’s door and tell them what had happened to their son. I never knew how it turned out for him. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Saturday November 05th 2022, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Politics

We did it. We delivered our ballots at City Hall. It felt so deeply satisfying to know we’d done our part. The rain let up for the time it took to walk from the car and back before setting in again as if cheering us on.

Now we wait.

The little tree munchers
Friday November 04th 2022, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I grew up next to a watershed preserve, a creek surrounded by park extending ten miles as it flowed down to the Potomac River.

So to my eyes it was the weirdest thing in the world to see creeks in California that in the 1950’s had been turned into concrete-lined, sharp-angled corridors. You, water! You go here, only, and yo, developers, build hereandhereandhereandhereandhere to your heart’s desire.

I found this article today: beavers were gone from this area since the Gold Rush, 160 years ago.

In the 1980’s, two of them were being considered a nuisance in the Central Valley.

California has a strict law re relocating wild animals: you can’t. If you trap one you can kill it mercifully if it’s not endangered in any way–or you can release it right there where you found it, after, y’know, giving it a good scolding about trespassing or something.

They didn’t quite say Fish and Game got permission or whether they’re the ones who grant the permission anyway so they just did what they wanted to or what (the article made it sound like the answer to the reporter was just don’t ask, guys), but, what they actually did in this one instance was to trap that pair where they weren’t wanted.

And then release them in the mountains above here near a large reservoir to see what they would do when they had the whole mountain to themselves. Either mountain lions or coyotes would get them or we would get to see what it’s like to have an actual beaver dam in operation. Because, science! Plus a chance to right a historical wrong.

Beavers looked at that concrete dam and chortled, Hey, let us show you how it’s done! Went right around it at some point.

The creek below there feeds into a river in San Jose, and it turns out they can manage the saltwater of the Bay just fine as a way to find their way up new creeks. Which, slowly, gradually, they’ve been doing.

San Jose Water Department went, Since when do we have beavers?! and wanted to get rid of them. They got told no, and that the beavers would do far more good than harm.

They are a keystone species. Where they’ve shown up, all kinds of things are making a comeback already.

But they don’t touch those concrete creeks. That would be slapping an Eat Me sign on their backs. Also, Starve Me. Which means that to expand further they have to find the one further north where the two counties couldn’t agree in the post-War era as to which one would have to pay for all that, with influential people fighting it anyway, and the officials threw up their hands and left the banks in their natural state.

We’re talking the richest part of town on the south side of that county line, with bigger house lots with great views of the creek and lots of trees near the water line that those beavers might find tasty and which might soon upset some people.

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg could take up wildlife photography.

Make it all shiny and new again
Thursday November 03rd 2022, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Work was still all hands on deck for him while I had an appointment to get the car damage appraised after waiting two weeks to get in, and given how booked they’ve been, standing them up on an hour or two’s notice would have been just too rude. And I had to return the at-home sleep-study equipment within 24 hours. Rescheduling that study (again) would have pushed it to January at the earliest.

So I drove him to work again.

I showed up at the body shop at 9:59, inwardly proud of myself for getting there on time, and the lady blinked. I was who? With an appointment for when? Not on their schedule. She called the nearest shop in their chain, nope, and turned back to me: Had I gotten a confirmation email?

No, I told her, and I thought that was strange because usually you do.

Which was the tip off that I had been here and they had done that car before. The other time Richard got hit on the freeway, as a matter of fact. Note that their nearest competitor was right across the driveway and I had in fact parked facing that company’s building because that’s where there was room to. I was a repeat customer, but I had options.

She got up and talked quietly to her boss in the next room.

He decided no harm done and came out and took pictures of the car to get things started for the insurance company.

I was not expecting him to ask, Have you had your catalytic converter stolen?

Yes, twice.

That down there where it’s bent away from the door–that isn’t from the accident, which is all up here: that’s where they jacked up the car to get at it. I’ve seen so so so many of these, I know what it is. The insurance won’t cover that.

He gave me a quote on the spot for fixing it and a scratch on the other side. I guess I looked skeptical because he almost immediately knocked a hundred bucks off.

Come back in two weeks for the actual work.

After that I got the wires and monitors and belt and questionnaire all back to the clinic, glad to be done with that. Hopefully.

But for the record: I think I’d recommend not having to wake up early-ish and driving ninety rush hour minutes right after a sleep study night. It worked out okay but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do if I woke up too tired.

Actually, I do know: I would have called both and bailed (and paid big bucks for hogging the medical equipment an extra day and messing up their schedule.) But I have no desire to do to another driver what was done to me years ago.

Okay, all that aside: it’s pretty ironic to be getting up early three days in a row right before the Fall Back time on the clock.

I’m just going to jump the gun a little early here and sleep in tomorrow.

Somehow we’ll find us a rainbow connection
Wednesday November 02nd 2022, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Little cloudbursts today, somehow never while I was actually driving.

Which I was doing for three and a half rush hour hours, just like yesterday. How on earth do people who have to do this every day do this every day?

It’s been a very unusual week where he had to be in the office and I had waited months for those appointments. So we made it work. There was a cashere/merino/silk skein‘s worth of bridge tolls. (Rainbow came today. I’m going to steal their photo to show it off because my phone’s pretty dead after running Waze to dodge the worst of the traffic.) 

And yet.

It was like the good old days, when his commute was three miles and he got to decompress by having me come get him, with the two of us together on his way home with no other responsibilities in those few moments but to be focused on each other. We’d missed that.

He got lots and lots of decompression time.

(Links so I can find them later: California major reservoir levels  and 24 hour rainfall totals)

Somehow all that time at the wheel helped make me feel a need to knit and to finish an old project, so a plain black hat that had been boring my needles to death is now done and my circs freed up for something a whole lot more fun that was waiting when we walked in the door tonight. And I didn’t even expect it to arrive yet!

More in the forecast
Tuesday November 01st 2022, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Life

We’ve had so many rain forecasts these past three years that have sounded so promising and then have fizzled out to nothing, including last week. We were expecting today’s to do that too.

We got a strong cloudburst.

I had to drive to a doctor appointment up the freeway in the middle of that and never mind our grumbles about Californians who have no idea how to drive in a real storm because they’ve never experienced one–people were actually slowing down for it.

In the hidden noontime sun, the bright white sprays from the tires ahead against the darkened skies were creating rising car ghosts.

Monday October 31st 2022, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,History

A few months ago I saw some handwoven blankets on Etsy from the Carpathian mountains and saved a few to my Favorites just so I’d be able to find them again–just to admire.

Knowing none of that, my friend Anne sent me a link yesterday to a video about those same craftspeople, and I loved getting to see who they are as they worked, the gorgeous hills they live in, so many details close up.

There–right there at the six minute mark, what I’d caught a small glimpse of was suddenly plainly visible: the woman was wearing the same vyshyvanka I was wearing right then as I watched her. (This one is very close.)

Mine had come from her part of their country.

I wondered if the needleworkers knew each other. Each region has traditional patterns and colors…

Should I ever buy a blanket of theirs (that would make me toasty-comfortable in winter and my husband way too hot), I’ll send those weavers a picture of me holding their blanket. Wearing our shirt.

Slava Ukraini.

Dress-up time
Sunday October 30th 2022, 9:05 pm
Filed under: Family

Three and five year olds wanting to FaceTime their grandparents to tell us in great excitement that they’re going to be unicorns!!! for Halloween is the best thing ever.

With the three year old wearing her Wonder Woman t-shirt as she tells you this.

From Ukraine with determination
Saturday October 29th 2022, 10:07 pm
Filed under: History,Life

Yesterday, the day after the gerdan arrived, the doorbell rang.

It was almost deja vue–if only the war had ended.

The mailman (the guy who shows up on our regular guy’s day off, which rotates forward one day of each week) had a package for me to sign for, and clearly he’d read the return address because he exclaimed, “Kherson?!”

“Yes, where the fighting’s been going on.” I told him; “It’s a dress for my granddaughter. They also sell t-shirts that are anti-Putin and anti-Russia.”

I didn’t have to say, Nerves of steel there, man; he felt it. We both looked at each other in amazement as I handed him back his little handheld and its pen, at the sheer determined ordinariness of commerce in the face of all that.

At least I have this one thing I can do for them, and the means to do it.

Same company the birds t-shirt had come from (in a completely random color but they got it out of there.) They’re still getting things mailed. (The dress only came in the one color.)

I think it’s actually too small and might have to be a gift to a niebling’s toddler, but I’d still really like one for Lillian.

We just might end up with a do-over on that conversation.

Friday October 28th 2022, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Politics

The mail came.

Rarely does a political flier at election season bother me enough to make me go, WHAAAAAT?

He claims our House Representative, a Democrat well known locally because she’s worked hard these many years at serving her constituents, is in cahoots with Kevin McCarthy to destroy Medicare.  And to back himself up he references his Mercury News op-ed, offering a link to–notice, not at the Merc but his website. Data harvesting R Us.

I’m on her mailing list. I know for a fact that if she’d had her way we’d have Medicare for all by now, but that she’s also a pragmatist who was thrilled to see Obamacare pass. She wrote part of it!

I searched every way I could think of on the Merc’s site, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but clearly there is no such op-ed there. Even just searching his name and the word Medicare–zero results. He’s lying again.

So having run against her before and lost, now he thinks he just wasn’t dishonest enough? Wow wow and wow.

I have friends who got audited year after year, who got told their quarterly tax payments hadn’t arrived even though they had the stamped registered mail proving they had and pictures of themselves handing the envelopes to the postal clerks. An offhand comment made it clear that one agent took great exception to the (completely innocuous) name of one of them, and they finally in desperation called our Rep’s office.

She promptly slapped an investigation on the local IRS office.

And suddenly everything was resolved and they were told that yes, in fact, they had indeed done everything correctly and on time. Then it happened again the next year. All they had to do was call our Rep and the problem vanished before the investigation even started that time. There was never a problem again.

And nobody knew about it except my very grateful friends, our Rep, and her staff. (And me, because the wife spilled the story one day.) Just part of the job.

Can you imagine, say, Ms. Jewish (sic) Space Lasers bothering with the likes of you if there’s not a camera involved?

We have to pay attention in this election. We have to do our homework. We *have* to vote!

The guy is right about one thing: McCarthy has said outright that he wants to do away with Medicare and Social Security and that if the House goes Republican he will do everything he can to make that happen. Not to expand healthcare to all but to yank it away from all. The rich can live but the rest of you, die, suckers, and women, especially. That’s. What. That. Means.

Roe Roe Roe your vote. And remember that every office matters.

Sunflower sized
Thursday October 27th 2022, 9:25 pm
Filed under: History,Life

The little globetrotter finally showed up after its second trip from Kiev: the beaded sunflower necklace with an upper flower split like falcon wings raised triumphantly to the sky.

It’s big. It definitely announces its presence.

Oleksandra went through so much to make this and get it safely here. I put it on in great glee. (Not pictured: the sunflower ponytail holder she added as a surprise.)

The war, however, did not end, no matter how much I told it to. Darn it.

Not yet.

But it will. And Ukraine will win.

As one person put it today, the US and Russia both believe in freedom of speech: the difference is the US believes in freedom after speech.

And Ukraine is quite willing to give voice to its opinion about which of those two outcomes it chooses.

How long had that been there?
Wednesday October 26th 2022, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

There was a small flock. That was the tell.

Given the water restrictions, I only planted one tomato this year, and a Costco plant at that–meaning you take what they’ve got, and all they had was a determinate-type: they grow, they produce all at once, they die.

Personally, I’d prefer a few at a time across the summer, but lazy is as lazy buys.

It gave it its all, though it did space the ripening out just enough. See those dead yellow and brown leaves hanging down?

But since it was right there by the apricot pots I gave a little water to it each time, too. It was still alive. You never know.

It started with the surprise of a small new leaf after weeks without change. Then a few more.

And now it’s a whole plant full of bright little yellow blossoms dressed up for Halloween. Cool! (Let’s see if I can protect it from frost for the winter, but my back isn’t moving that thing quite yet.)

The flowers attracted the attention of a house finch, which clearly hopped in under a wobbly lower edge but couldn’t fly out at bird level but just bounced into the netting, and the more it panicked the more it wanted to go upwards to be safe.

None of which I noticed until I was surprised to see a bunch of finches out there where there was no particular reason for any of them to be–so I stood up and walked to the window to get a better look.

Ah, I see it, yes, they do that. Okay.

I walked outside and lifted the cage. Escape at last.

I came back in grateful once again for the example of simple birds, and at that, a type that’s famous for squabbling at birdfeeders.

But they are unwilling to see their fellow suffer alone. They feel compelled to be with it in its extremity. For as long as it takes.

Rocks and roll
Tuesday October 25th 2022, 4:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Why I didn’t drive to Andy’s Orchard today (in retrospect, not that I could have known it at the time.) I would have been driving right past the spot with my tires all bouncing around on a crowded part of the freeway. I somehow decided this morning that, nah, I’ll go Thursday or Friday.

And then the conversation went something like this, as my husband came around the corner:

Did you feel it?

Feel what?

Yeah, I didn’t either.

What? How did we miss it?

Turns out he’d been talking to someone in south San Jose when the 5.1 hit, nice and shallow and close at four miles deep. (Note that he was also on the phone with someone in San Jose when the Loma Prieta hit in ’89 and before the shock waves made it to here, got up and stood in the doorway of his office to prepare for it. Suddenly he heard a colleague down the hall yelling his name, he being the biggest guy on the second floor: Hey! Quit jumping up and down!

Oh wait…

Today’s means, the USGS warns, that there’s a high chance of aftershocks in the next 24 hours. And if we get something stronger then they’ll change the classification to a foreshock. This was on the Calaveras line, which connects to the Hayward fault, which is problematical because in the post-War boom of the 1950’s the fault line was the cheap land and they simply bulldozed it and developed it. Every single hospital on that side of the Bay is within yards of where the earth wants to spit and split.

This is why California decreed in 1994 that by 2020 every hospital in the state had to be seismically able to stay standing in a bigger quake than we’ve ever had. And by 2030 any acute-care facility has to not only be standing but still functional.

We have a friend who was operating on a patient at the VA when the Loma Prieta hit and his unconscious patient was suddenly trying to shoot across the room while all medical personel present grabbed at the guy and held on.

Fun times.

So. What do you do when you have an actual timestamp on that particular possibility? Where the power and even the water could get disrupted, even on this side of the Bay?

You quick run and go do all the laundry so that at least you’ll have clean clothes for as long as possible.

And you don’t wait till evening to hit post on this.

Maybe it will work
Monday October 24th 2022, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,History

The best of my Anya apricot attempts. This was a kernel in my fridge two years ago. And now I know it’s going to be glorious to have in the Fall as well as at harvest.

Last night I was talking to my knitting zoom group friends and mentioned that the hat I was working on was the overall gist of the various patterns that someone in Ukraine had embroidered onto three blouses for me; that I wondered how, especially given current circumstances, I could get it to her in Kiev. I wanted to be able to thank her beyond words for all the hours she’d put in on my behalf.

But it had to be a small enough package that she wouldn’t get hit with customs duties. So, a hat.

Note that this is the same soft ball of Mecha that my granddaughter knitted herself a finger puppet out of.

We brainstormed ideas, with one person saying what about going through the embassy?

I have no idea. But I like that one, and I can try. That does make me want all the more to make one for every vendor there I’ve done business with; I can’t imagine what they’ve had to go through.

But only one of them embroidered by hand to order and knew who the recipient would be as she did so.

And I want her to have this.

They only come out at night
Sunday October 23rd 2022, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

While all we’ve seen on our property is possums and a skunk at the front door. Oh and the bunnies.

It does help that we’re not up in the hills.