Friday, June 26, 2009

For Gail

I probably won't be able to speak at her memorial service. But she was important and she was exceptional and she deserves to be remembered.

My ex-sister-in-law, Gail, died last Sunday. She was only 52. I don't know the official cause of death, but I can guess it was due to complications of her demons.

Actually, Gail and I had a bit of a tempestuous relationship. She didn't have children of her own. She adored my kids and was pretty opinionated about how they should be raised and cared for. Unsurprisingly, this caused a bit of friction between us.

For the most part though, I loved her. And I admired her.

She was bubbly and energetic and was the very definition of verve. She was never intimidated by a career challenge--she dove straight in and made the best of any situation.

Gail also loved to entertain and was a fantastic hostess. But the way she influenced my life the most was through her proclivity to celebrate her birthday with panache!

Gail didn't mind aging. And she didn't subscribe to the martyr theory of birthdays (I'm sure you all know people who do the martyr thing, "Oh, it's no big deal--it's just another day . . . ")

Gail celebrated much and with relish. But it wasn't all about her--she used her birthday parties as a platform to celebrate family and friends and especially to glorify the largesse of a brand new, freshly ripened year just waiting to be plucked and savored.

Her death was a long time coming. And the last several years of her life could not have been anything like enjoyable or comfortable. She's at peace now.

Godspeed, Gail. And when we meet again I'll look forward to hearing your familiar old words, "How ya doin? Can I get you something to drink?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

apples and oranges

The Girl Pharmacist* got a phone call from her 11-year-old son after school on Wednesday. He was very excited to tell his mom that according to the results of some standardized testing he'd endured, his reading level is that of a 9th grader, while his math skills were at the 12th grade level.

Not bad for an 11 year old.

The Girl Pharmacist was, understandably, pleased (though not surprised : ) at the news. And a little part of me whimpered.

My Youngest does not have testable skills. Youngest is a great kid, but scholastic, he is not.

Youngest, like his father, has common sense. And a fairly good work ethic. He's got a big heart. He loves women, respects his mother (well, you know . . . mostly . . . ) Also, like his father, Youngest is mechanically minded--he's been fixing the neighbor kids' toys and bicycles since he was 7.

He's the kind of kid who doesn't like other people to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed and will do what he can to put a person at ease. He's a natural with small children and is our go-to man when it comes to babysitting our extremely exuberant step-grandson.

I don't know what it is about his personality that makes him such a draw, but for some reason, with several different groups of friends, he is like the egg in a recipe--he is the ingredient that binds everyone together.

Four or five years ago, Youngest was away camping with his grandparents for two weeks. The neighborhood kids missed him so much that near the end of his absence a bunch of them were sitting in the lawn--and I am not exaggerating--chanting his name, "Youngest, Youngest, Youngest . . . "

Yesterday, he was with his dad running some errands. I noticed two of his friends sitting on the grass near our driveway. "What's up, guys?" I asked. "Oh, we're just waiting for Youngest to get home," they told me. It was the 13-year-old-boy-trying-to-maintain-some-semblance-of-cool version of chanting my son's name.

Don't get me wrong--my boy is by no means perfect. I'm sure the moms of a few of his friends could tell me things about him that I'd rather not hear : ) And, of course, we do have our bad days. Today, in fact, was one of them. Today, was just so darn much fun with my darling little Youngest that my facebook status reads, "Free to good home: 13 year old boy. Knows everything. We'll deliver."

He'll never test well. He'll never call me at work to tell me he scored light years above his age level. But as far as the intangibles? He excels. He has qualities that make him a good, decent person and which will make him a good husband and father some day.

All said and done, he is a boy I am proud of.

*Note to the Girl Pharmacist: Should you ever happen to read this, it's important to me that you know I am in no way disrepecting your son--I think he's wonderful : )