father

November 12, 2013

November 12, 2013

I remember this dinner, which might be impressive if it was more than 4 years ago. It was one of the last relatively healthy celebrations of my mother’s birthday. There was no way to know it was one of the last although the fact it was an 88th birthday might’ve raised a red flag for some.

My mother's birthday in 2013
My mother’s birthday in 2013

Not me. The prospect of my parents not being here was too unbearable to consider. Would occasions like this be sweeter or more painful if we knew it was the last time?

Out for a meal with the family.Out for a meal with the family.
Out for a meal with the family.

In 2013, my mind was on more mundane matters than mortality. I noticed how differently my children act in restaurants compared to my sisters and I. My parents never suggested we couldn’t afford to eat out, but all three of us intuitively ordered the cheapest entree on the menu and requested water instead of an expensive soda. How did we all receive the same explicit message without words?

My sisters and me.
My sisters and me.

My children didn’t receive it. Two out of three never so much as glance at prices. Apparently, they feel worthy enough to order what they want to eat or drink. No crisis has ensued. On the contrary, my father smiled and picked up the tab for the whole group (usually numbering 16 to 20 depending on how many significant others accompany their grandchildren.)  He probably would’ve been equally accepting if my sisters and I ordered appetizers, drinks and other extras, but even today I’d call myself a cautous diner. Other people might call it cheap.

My kids and I - looks like a family meal at the now defunct Marie Callendar's.
My kids and I – looks like a family meal at the now defunct Marie Callendar’s.

It would’ve been fun to rehash these silly observations and memories with my parents, now that it’s long ago and far away and we’re all adults. I wish.

Another big family dinner.
Another big family dinner.

 

October 15, 1964

October 15, 1964

Dueling teachers

Hmmm, “Stage-struck.” Based on the sizzling synopsis, I’m baffled it failed to become an international sensation. Unfortunately, the title – the characters – and the story-line – are all too typical of what I generously considered “creative” writing at thirteen. My oeuvre was stories about junior high girls, one popular and one brainy, frequently involving show biz.

Sandy and I could make almost anything fun - or funny.
Sandy and I could make almost anything fun – or funny.

Mr. Uebel was one of my favorite teachers although I was a nervous wreck in his room, I was so desperate to impress him. Mr. Call, our Spanish teacher, was great too, as evidenced by their musical duel. The innocence of these times seems unreal from the perspective of 2017 yet I can unequivocally swear life actually was this innocent, this simple – at least at Jefferson Jr. High.

My family circa 1964
My family circa 1964

At thirteen, it never crossed my mind to rebel against a teachers or authority figure – and to the best of my knowledge, none of my classmates did either. Maybe Jefferson got lucky and employed teachers with big personalities who loved teaching.

This shot clarifies where I found inspiration for my fictional character - the unpopular brainy girl.
This shot clarifies where I found inspiration for my fictional character – the unpopular brainy girl.

Full disclaimer – far from being anything close to a radical dissident trouble-maker, I was a kiss-up sycophant who idolized my teachers. I made it my mission to be teacher’s pet (not exactly a fast track to popularity, in case you’re wondering). More often than not I succeeded, not because I was so special or brilliant (although I liked to think so) – I just tried harder.

My dad giving sister Janet a horsy ride on what was probably a family night.
My dad giving sister Janet a horsy ride on what was probably a family night.

Looking back, I regret how eager I was to be free of our Friday family nights. Little did I know that once gone, those nights could never be recaptured in quite the same way. I should have treasured and prolonged every last minute.

Unpopular nerd girl captured in family setting.
Unpopular nerd girl captured in family setting.

September 28, 1965

September 28, 1965

Usually, when I brought dilemmas like this to my parents, they strongly advised me to stick it out and argued against the change (read escape) that I wanted. For example, I was miserable in third grade. For the first time, I was not teacher’s pet, a situation I considered unbearable. If anything, the teacher (whose last name rhymed with cruel – seriously) actively disliked me. I wanted to transfer to another third grade class and tearfully pleaded my case to my parents.

With my sisters, circa 1965
With my sisters, circa 1965

Unmoved, they pointed out that in the course of my lifetime, I would encounter many people who – like Mrs. Cruel – not only didn’t favor me, actively detested me.  In most instances, transferring would not be a possibility. I might as well learn to cope with this unpleasant scenario now since I’d surely have to face it later. I managed to survive third grade, even though the situation never improved and it remains my least favorite year of elementary school.

In Elgin with my sisters (pre move to California)
In Elgin with my sisters (pre move to California)

This wasn’t the only time they failed to rescue me. Going back further still – to when we lived in Elgin, Iowa, and I was under five – a neighbor boy encroached on my toys. I raced inside to enlist my parents on my behalf. “Kathleen, you’re old enough to fight your own battles,” my father said.

I'm the tough little girl on the far right.
I’m the tough little girl on the far right.

I took him seriously and upended my plastic wading pool on top of the neighbor boy, trapping him until my parents intervened. I don’t think I’ve fought my own battles quite so effectively since then.

 

September 8, 1964

September 8, 1964_edited-1

$2.00 - My total net worth at the time.
$2.00 – My total net worth at the time.

 Funny how my perception of what constitutes a “problem” changed over the years. Today, for instance, it wouldn’t bother me a bit to be known as a brain – quite the contrary.

My geeky dud self around this time.
My geeky dud self around this time.

My mother telling me I’d be allowed to go to a Jr. High dance was a really big deal in a positive way.  I do not want to perpetuate the stereotype of a preacher forbidding an entire town of teens from dancing ala “Footloose.” As a Lutheran pastor’s daughter, I can unequivocally state my father never sought to impose his views on a community – or even a neighborhood. And, to the best of my knowledge, Lutherans have not been “forbidden” to dance in my lifetime.

With my nuclear family around this time.
With my nuclear family around this time.

That said, even in the sixties some stigma attached to dancing at least in the Midwest. I had a major temper tantrum one summer when I wasn’t allowed to go to a dance at Lake Okoboji with my cousins. More importantly – at least to me – because of this unwritten stigma about the clergy and dancing, I never got to go to a Father-Daughter Dance with my dad. He was uncomfortable with the idea.

With my handsome father.
With my handsome father.

As far as parents go, mine were the best and I have nothing to complain about. Whining about how I never got to dance with my dad is vain and silly, I know that. Still. I thought he was the handsomest man in the world and I would have loved to show him off and dance with him, just once.

My daughter with her father at her Father-Daughter high school dance.
My daughter with her father at her Father-Daughter high school dance.

September 3, 1978

September 3, 1978

 Board Games in Tahoe 1978

This is one of those vacations that passed without significant incident – no sight-seeing or hiking expeditions, just a few ordinary days in a beautiful environment away from the distractions of home. There was more “action” doing Tahoe with the Rowell’s, in part because there are more of them. John is the oldest of seven and all of them, plus his parents and his aunt Mary, were at Tahoe in 1977  – unlike John, at least for the first two days, who was not. He worked for a maniacal boss and couldn’t get away. When he did escape, he almost immediately got sick.

More board games in Tahoe 1978

The Rowell’s were more social – what I thought of as party people. No one would ever describe my family as “party people”.  I might as well be gauche and say it; they had more money. They dined out at swankier restaurants than Bob’s Big Boy a couple nights a week.  Unless it was Bob’s or we had a coupon, we rarely ate out more than once or twice a year. I’m not complaining; my palate was satisfied with a Big Boy. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued by my in-laws more glamourous life-style.

Joyce and me striking a pose and Captain Janet probably winning at miniature golf.
Joyce and me striking a pose and Captain Janet probably winning at miniature golf.

Our relatively quiet brood of five – six including the soon to be Terrible Two CD – were less cosmopolitan. Our idea of a party took place every Sunday night, when my father finished his duties at church. Instead of dinner, we indulged in a weekly “popcorn party” – the popping part involved more ritual before microwaves simplified everything.

CD - 1978
CD – 1978

Casinos were not on our itinerary but we played every board game under the sun. By 1978, Jani and I no longer burst into tears and accused each other of cheating. There’s something to be said for learning how to lose. Was this an exciting vacation? Hardly. Memorable? Not that much. I’ve shared as much as I remember.

We 3
We 3

Still, looking back, this low-key time assumes a bittersweet beauty – magnified now that I’ve lost both my parents. What I wouldn’t give for a few more of those beautiful ordinary days with them!

August 29, 1966

August 29, 1966

Prophetic words. As history has it, that San Francisco concert was the very last performance all four Beatles gave in the USA. For years, I tormented my parents about the injustice of not letting me go – made even more egregious the following year when they did give permission for my sister Janet to go to a Monkees concert. The Monkees, of all bands! When I was not allowed to see the Beatles!

Monkees fan sister Janet with guitar in backyard.
Monkees fan sister Janet with guitar in backyard.

I know I wasn’t the only girl to sincerely believe she’d never love any boy as much as she loved Paul, John, George or Ringo. Some straight boys that I knew – mostly aspiring musicians – loved the Beatles as much as I did (although I suspect our fantasies about them differed).

Can you Imagine, $4.50 for a Beatles concert? The one I didn't get to attend!
Can you Imagine, $4.50 for a Beatles concert? The one I didn’t get to attend!

It’s obvious their music has stood the test of time. People born long after they broke up love them too. But I’m not sure anyone who wasn’t young – meaning, a teen-ager – when they burst upon the rock scene can fully comprehend the sheer magnitude of their effect. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was a revelation next to everything else played on popular AM radio. It still gives me chills when I really pay attention to it. In some mysterious way, it changed everything. 

Me slightly sulky with family in 1966
Me slightly sulky with family in 1966

A new Beatles single was an event. Everybody stopped and listened. Girls wanted to be their girlfriend, boys wanted to be them. They came from nowhere, they made it look easy. Maybe it’s not so surprising my parents underestimated their importance, took them for a passing fad instead of an artistic, cultural phenomenon unlikely to be equaled in my lifetime.

The Beatles at a press conference - August 1966
The Beatles at a press conference – August 1966

Go ahead, argue others are bigger. Make a case for Sinatra, Elvis, Springsteen, Michael Jackson, the Stones. I’m not suggesting they weren’t important, major influences on music. But for my money, none of them come close to the Beatles in terms of song-writing talent, ingenuity, the ability to re-invent themselves and inspire a generation to do the same.

Sandy Walker in John Lennon style Beatles cap with me
Sandy Walker in John Lennon style Beatles cap with me

Meeting Paul McCartney in person is #1 on my bucket list. As of now, it’s not looking likely. But if I found out he was at a local bookstore or restaurant, I’d be in my car in a flash if only just to gaze in wonder at my first true love.

As close as I'm likely to come to Mr. McCartney - Desert Trip, October 2016
As close as I’m likely to come to Mr. McCartney – Desert Trip, October 2016

May 11, 1965

May 11, 1965

The picture in the front of that diary - still hideous after all these years.
The picture in the front of that diary – still hideous after all these years.

 In 1965, I was foolishly over-optimistic about how easy it  would be to conquer my tendency to talk like it’s a race to the finish line (and the loser dies) whenever I speak to a group. The larger the group, the faster I gallop.

I call this facial expression "the Silent Scream".
I call this facial expression “the Silent Scream”.

Obviously, nerves – or more accurately fear – is the root of this malady. A doctor explained it’s due to a primal burst of adrenalin – speaking in public triggers a “fight or flight” response in my reptilian brain.

Given my father, a Lutheran pastor, delivered a sermon to a large seated congregation every Sunday, you’d think I might acquire this skill naturally – by osmosis.  I did not.

Mom! Kathy is doing all the talking again!

I made up for it in small groups – such as my nuclear family – where I felt comfortable. There, I morphed into “Chatty Cathy”, a nickname I loathed. It was all Janet could do to get a word in edgewise.

Word in edgewise

My father recorded us after dinner and doing family devotions. I belted out every verse of every hymn I knew by heart, barely pausing to catch my breath. In my monotone shriek, it had to be excruciating. My father tried to slow me down. “It’s Janet’s turn. Let Janet sing.”

She's too little!

(atonal shrieking)

Joy to the world

 

Let Earth recieve her KING

And on and on, all recorded for posterity. Clearly, I was desperate to entertain them lest they decide I’d become redundant now that Baby Janet was on the scene. Photographic evidence of my terrifying ordeal can be seen in my gallery, “Kathy Vs. the Alien Baby”.

 

 

 

April 28, 1968


April 28, 1968

My nuclear family circa 1968
My nuclear family circa 1968

It’s difficult if not impossible to convey what life was really like in 1968 to people who weren’t even born then. IMHO, most films set in the sixties are cliched embarrassments. The best was “The Big Chill” but even that was nothing like my reality.

I never considered running away. My father made a concerted effort to stay close. He would sit beside me and listen attentively to both sides of a new Beatles album – not to censor my music but to stay connected to my world. He took me – my opinions, my passions – seriously. Since I was still a self-involved child, it never occurred to me to exhibit similar interest in his music. My loss.

My father and I on my Confirmation Day.
My father and I on my Confirmation Day.

Baby boomers like me – teenagers in the late sixties – weren’t all about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll although “revolution” was in the air. My friend JoAnn, an aspiring model, had been obsessed with appearances – her personal revolution was reflected in a new craving for more authentic relationships.

My friend JoAnn
My friend JoAnn

The times exerted a powerful effect on Tal Pomeroy, who drew a high number in the draft lottery. One of the smartest boys at Wilcox, he was successfully challenged in his efforts to help me grasp the periodic table of the elements.  He didn’t take a traditional route to his eventual M.D. like he might’ve in the fifties. Instead, he criss-crossed the US, worked all manner of jobs and got to know all kinds of people. Along the way, he handwrote long beautiful letters which could never be condensed to a text or tweet.

Tal Pomeroy
Tal Pomeroy

I’m grateful I came of age in the sixties. Were they better or worse than other times? I don’t know – but I doubt any other era could be as interesting.

Coming of age in the sixties

April 24, 1966

APril 24, 1966

Santa Cruz Beach postcard
Santa Cruz Beach postcard

This is another one of those splendid spring days Sandy and I shared, when not a whole lot happened. I  probably wouldn’t recall it at all, if I hadn’t written it down (and I think the beach photos posted here might’ve been taken today). I can’t imagine what we found so hilarious about “Rockin’ Robin” – we were probably punchy after a day in the sun and surf with our best friend. As usual, my perennial fear made it into the mix – “I bored her” – but Sandy’s mother was sweet and reassuring.  We were both barely fifteen years old. It was a good time to be young in a city like Santa Cruz.

Sandy on the beach
Sandy on the beach

For whatever reason, my family didn’t go to the beach a lot, at least not that I remember. Our family outings – rare on Sundays, a working day for my Lutheran pastor father – more often than not took us to Mt. Cross (a Lutheran Bible camp in the mountains) or a local tour of model homes. We weren’t looking to buy – we lived in the parsonage, which was owned by the church – but we loved to pretend we were moving into our own house. My sisters and I competed over who got the best imaginary bedroom.

Me circa 1966
Me circa 1966

I haven’t been to Santa Cruz in decades but I’m sure – like the rest of the Silicon Valley – it’s nothing like the Santa Cruz I remember. I invite anyone who reads this and has been there recently to share their impressions about how it’s changed – what it’s like today.

Sandy and me on the beach.
Sandy and me on the beach.

Is the boardwalk still there?

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

The roller coaster?

Roller Coaster

April 22, 1974

April 22, 1974

Looking back, it’s clear I over-reacted. At 23, I had yet to master the art of accepting rebuke – or any kind of criticism, really– without bursting into tears. Sometimes all it took to trigger the waterworks was a personal remark from an authority figure. Now that I’m old enough to be an authority figure myself, it happens less but I haven’t conquered it entirely.

Near tears face - and yes, I know this dress is ridiculously short, but that's what we wore in those days.
Near tears face – and yes, I know this dress is ridiculously short, but that’s what we wore in those days.

I never could have worked for one of the notorious screaming Boss/Producer from Hell types in Hollywood.  My tendency toward tears is one reason – but not the primary reason – why. I do not – and never will – respect an adult who behaves like that, regardless of their “talent” or “power.” Anybody who loses control of their emotions and inflicts damage on underlings is somebody I do not want to be around. (Just to be clear, this isn’t what happened in the above diary entry. Roger Corman wasn’t a screamer. Even when annoyed, he exhibited the self-control and class of a gentleman. I reacted inappropriately.)

Roger Corman - Tears

These standards were ingrained in me by my father and mother, who always behaved like mature adult parents, never regressed to childish bullies having a tantrum. I don’t recall either of them ever screaming at us, let alone heaping on invective. They didn’t need to, which might at least partially explain my over-reaction to Roger. Growing up, I could sense parental censure in the subtext of “Please pass the salt.” I craved their approval so much that no screaming was necessary, the mere threat of their disapproval did the trick.

"She cries easily" face again
“She cries easily” face again

Given my lack of experience with open anger let alone rage, maybe it’s not surprising that an authority figure who “spoke sharply” might upset me enough to quit.


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