father

March 12, 1977

March 12, 1977

CD in his baby carrier.
CD in his baby carrier.

 When I wrote this, I’d known my in-laws for less than a year but so far everything I knew was fabulous. They’d fit right in at one of Jay Gatsby’s wild parties or a formal meet-and-greet with a sitting US President. (No exaggeration – through them, J and I met Gerald Ford when he was in office.)

J and I with both sets of parents. What's really scary is the realization that our parents in this photo are younger than we are now.
J and I with both sets of parents. What’s really scary is the realization that our parents in this photo are younger than we are now.

Other than J’s and my marriage and their own 40-plus year marriage, Chet and Flo had little in common with my parents. No value judgment is implied; they were different but neither one of them was superior to the other. Their strengths were in different areas.

One of my favorite photos of Florence - with Richard and Francie
One of my favorite photos of Florence – with Richard and Francie

John’s parents were more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than mine. They had more books in their house. They drank, they smoked, they went out to dinner and threw parties.  They played a mean game of bridge. Florence was a joiner, an active voice in clubs and charities throughout Fresno. Born a privileged San Francisco socialite, she was confident with a strong sense of self but never a haughty snob. She could make anyone feel like her new best friend. She was so entertaining, so easy to talk to, even a deeply reserved introvert like myself stayed up till 4 AM because it was fun to hang out with her.

Chet, Florence and their seven children plus some spouses.
Chet, Florence and their seven children plus some spouses.

John’s father was the ultimate family man, a good thing for the father of seven to be. CD was the first grandchild for John’s parents and mine – consequently, he was deluged by love and attention from both sets of grandparents. Sam and Alex got their fair share, too.

CD and Sam surrounded by both sets of grandparents and parents.
CD and Sam surrounded by both sets of grandparents and parents.

Did CD favor the Rowells or the Knutsens? He looked a lot like John as a baby.

J&CD

As he grew,  so did his resemblance to my father.

Look-a-likes

But, then again, also the resemblance to J.

Look-a-like Two

And perhaps a smidgen of a resemblance to me.

Look-a-likes Three

Which family had the more dominant genes? I call it a draw.

 

January 30, 1977


January 30, 1977

CD's Baptism

 

Because I’m a pastor’s kid (PK), my father confirmed me – married me – and baptized my children. Every time I stood in front of the congregation and looked into his eyes, tears welled and I teetered on the edge of complete meltdown. I wasn’t sad, just overloaded with emotion. The same thing happens when I think about him now. The memory of my father officiating at CD’s baptism makes me reflect on unique aspects of life as a PK.

CD with my father.
CD with my father.

 When I was two years old (before the Alien Baby[1] emerged, and ruined my life), my father took me with him to give communion to rural parishioners. Halfway through the ceremony, his communicant’s eyes wandered so he turned to investigate what caught their attention. It was me, toddling behind, imitating his words of blessing and passing out imaginary wine and wafers.

CD with me.
CD with me.
CD meets Joyce's dog Kuala or vice versa.
CD meets Joyce’s dog Kuala or vice versa.

We acted out Bible stories to amuse ourselves. The Good Samaritan was a favorite. My father played the battered victim near death by the side of the road. I took on multiple challenging roles ranging from a snooty priest to a snotty Pharisee and a self-absorbed Levite.  Basically, I pretended not to see the dying man by the side of the road. At this point my sister Janet, bobbing with excitement, took center stage in the starring role of Good Samaritan. Between you and me, a monkey could have played her part.  All she needed to do was hoof it as far as the kitchen and ask Mommy for a glass of water. When she accomplished this feat, dramatic tension peaked. Invariably she paused –  and guzzled most of the water, saving a few drops for our dying dad. And I’m the one who got typecast as being selfish?

CD finds this all a big yawn.
CD finds this all a big yawn.

Sometimes Janet and I played Israelites in search of manna. Confused about what constituted manna  – was it vegetable, legume or dairy product? We agreed it probably resembled chocolate chip cookie dough and hid globs of it in the sofa cushions for the Israelites to discover and devour. Who knew about salmonella in the fabulous fifties?

(Future blogs will explore other aspects of growing up P.K.)

[1] See Kathy Vs. the Alien Baby footnote

December 31, 2012

december-31-2012

Bill Connell directing traffic (center) before the wedding - Carly Salter Govind in purple to his right.
Bill Connell directing traffic (center) before the wedding – Carly Salter Govind in purple to his right.
The Bride and Groom
The Bride and Groom
Another romantic and very happily married - for 66 years! - couple, my parents.
Another romantic and very happily married – for 66 years! – couple, my parents.

The day was almost perfect, aside from the fact my sisters and I knew our father wasn’t feeling well. (I’m not sure anyone else noticed – being Norwegian, he did a masterful job of putting everyone else at ease by pretending he was fine.

It was the following day – January 1, 2013 – all hell broke loose.

Gil Gundersen provided magical music.
Gil Gundersen provided magical music.
Geo Ackles kills with a poignant and hilarious toast/speech
Geo Ackles kills with a poignant and hilarious toast/speech
All eyes and ears were on Geo Ackles as he took us through years of his friendship with CDR
All eyes and ears were on Geo Ackles as he took us through years of his friendship with CDR
Alex and Chris
Alex and Chris
Chris and Sam
Chris and Sam
CDR with Yolanda
CDR with Yolanda

My father was hospitalized and diagnosed with prostate cancer after a trip to the ER. Bill Connell, who helped set up for the ceremony, was hospitalized with heart problems. Yolanda Hernandez, virtually a member of the family for 30 years, discovered she had an aneurism and was hospitalized to await brain surgery. What are the odds? Three people, all essential to mounting the wedding, immobilized 24 hours later.

Rowells came from far and wide....
Rowells came from far and wide….
Tables full of Rowells
Tables full of Rowells

Aside from the collective health crisis, everything went as well as it possibly could.  It was a pleasure to get to know Jerry and April Ekins, Serena’s father and stepmother, as well as her brother and adorable niece and nephew. A large contingent of CD’s aunts and uncles – the geographically extended Rowell side – showed up to lend their support. CD was thrilled his oldest friend Geo Ackles and newer friends from UCLA’s film school were there to celebrate with him and his beautiful bride.

Chris Varaste gets in front of the camera
Chris Varaste gets in front of the camera

On a purely selfish note, it was a great opportunity for me to catch up with some of my dearest friends who moved out of state (or at least out of my zip code). Weddings have a way of bringing people together. Christmas and the holiday season don’t hurt.

The Ekins family
The Ekins family

After one of the longest courtships on record – 21 years, I kid you not – it was clear to one and all that Chris and Serena are as romantic and madly in love today as they were when they met. So, here’s to love and the future!

Parents of the groom
Parents of the groom
The Happy Newlyweds
The Happy Newlyweds

 

December 30, 1963

december-30-1963

My family posed on our toboggan.
My family posed on our toboggan.

Of all my diary entries so far this is the one I most longed to rewrite. In my defense, it’s entry #7 of what now totals over 15,000 entries. When I wrote it, I was a 12-year-old amateur but that’s just an excuse, not the problem. The problem, obviously, is the stilted, cloying, artificial prose. “Anticipating lovely things of the future?” Please, who talks like that, outside of terrible Victorian novels?

The one redeeming quality in these early journals is my penmanship. My writing was larger, rounder, loopier with robust capital letters. This made it significantly more legible, which was darn lucky because for the first two years I wrote with a dull smudgy pencil – sheer torture to decipher fifty years later.

Three sisters in the snow.
Three sisters in the snow.

Reading the Diary of Anne Frank was my inspiration. I aspired to be as talented and profound as Anne, oblivious to the distance that separated my pedestrian prose from hers.  Her diary inspired empathy as well as suspense due to her horrible (but historically significant) circumstances. Given my diary details the plight of a preacher’s daughter in suburban Santa Clara in 1964, the only thing our two diaries really have in common is they were both written by teen-agers.

With my Christmas presents that year.
With my Christmas presents that year.

My little town made history after I left, when Santa Clara became Silicon Valley. Even though most of my friends’ parents worked in electronics, I remained blithely oblivious to what that meant.

My world wasn’t much larger than my friends and family. As much as I loved Anne Frank’s diary, I couldn’t be her. I lacked her talent and the sweep and scope of her canvas. That said, what matters more in life than your relationship with your friends and family?

daddy-and-his-girls

So even with my limitations, maybe I’ve got something to say – if that prissy judgmental twit who wrote today’s entry gets out of my way.

December 28, 1967

december-28-1967

 My father rarely talked about himself; he preferred listening. He had a gift for asking questions people wanted to answer (maybe all clergymen or psychology students master this technique).

my-father

 

Invariably, when a boy came calling he found himself seated opposite my father, awaiting my entrance. My dad charmed them all. “Your father’s a great guy!” they’d enthuse –  surprised, because he was so much more amiable – so much easier to talk to – than they assumed a religious figure might be.

my-father-laughing

None of them realized how skillfully he drew them out, inspiring them to excited monologues while he revealed nothing. I like to think I learned from his example, although self-publishing my diary entries argues against it. If this isn’t talking about myself, what is?

my-father-the-pastor

 

He didn’t dwell on himself at home either, preferring to draw my sisters and me out about our feelings and interests. On those rare occasions when he did, I wrote his stories down in my diary. This one had a profound effect on me.

 

my-dad

I miss his calm wisdom and understanding more than I can express. Publishing my memories of him is as close as I can come to letting him live again.

December 26, 1972

december-26-1972

Eric and Joyce re-enacting the proposal scene with mosquitoes in the park.
Eric and Joyce re-enacting the proposal scene with mosquitoes in the park.
Joyce enters wearing my mother's original wedding dress
Joyce enters wearing my mother’s original wedding dress

 I was markedly unenthusiastic when someone in the congregation approached me to write a skit for my parents’ Silver Wedding Anniversary. Quite frankly, I was scared. What if I wrote something stupid and dull? What if nobody laughed at a joke? In first grade, I made the mistake of sharing a joke out loud with my classmates, who reacted with resounding silence. I never attempted humor in a classroom again. What if I revealed myself as talentless, an abject failure?

Joyce and Eric re-enact the wedding that took place 25 years ago today.
Joyce and Eric re-enact the wedding that took place 25 years ago today.
Joyce, my mother and father, myself. My sister Janet would have been there but she was doing her junior year abroad in Paris.
Joyce, my mother and father, myself. My sister Janet would have been there but she was doing her junior year abroad in Paris.
Actors, playwrite and honorees posing after the performance
Actors, playwright and honorees posing after the performance.
Eric and Joyce with fellow Clairemont parishioners including Melanie and
Eric and Joyce with fellow Clairemont parishioners (l-r) including Liz Carson, Steffani Graham, Melanie Saylor, Diane Larson, and Kathy Reardon.

There was no gracious way to decline so I was forced to go forward – thank God. Sure, there was  potential for disaster, but what were the odds, really? I had a front pew seat at Lutheran church social events before I could walk. If anybody knew what worked, it was me. Plus, I had a major ace in the hole – my sister Joyce and Clairemont parishioner Eric Onstad,  gifted with comic timing, capable of wringing laughs from the corniest material.

Now, having lost both of my parents in the last year and a half, this long-ago celebration of their Silver Wedding Anniversary is particularly poignant. One of the last things my father did before he was hospitalized was walk to the local market to buy a Valentine’s Day card for my mother.

Eric and Joyce present my parents with leis for their upcoming trip to Hawaii.
Eric and Joyce present my parents with leis for their upcoming trip to Hawaii.

He adored her as she did him. No need to ask Lana del Rey’s question – “will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” The answer was – is – and always will be –

 

i-know-you-will-i-know-you-will-i-know-that-you-will

 vance-geneva-thanking-the-congregation




 

December 24, 1983

december-24-1983

Sam and I on her first Christmas.
Sam and I on her first Christmas.

By “one big pregnant blur” I meant seven more months. Little did I know it would be fourteen more months. What the hell happened?

  1. A month prior, I took a pregnancy test at Verdugo Hills Hospital as opposed to a do-it-yourself pee stick. Why? Because I didn’t trust my ability to read the results accurately. I wanted professional eyes.
  2. After the positive test, I packed on pounds like a sumo wrestler.
  3. I quit nursing Sam to ensure adequate nourishment for the new baby.
Sam contemplates munching on her rag doll some more.
Sam contemplates munching on her rag doll some more.

Let’s back up. Three children weren’t part of John’s or my master plan. We were satisfied (and exhausted) by our current two, a boy and a girl. We convinced ourselves this third child was meant to be.

Delighted CD meets his little sister Sam - two children, a boy and a girl. Perfect.
Delighted CD meets his little sister Sam – two children, a boy and a girl. Perfect.

Our childless friends mocked us mercilessly. “What did you do, mount her on the way out of the delivery room?” they taunted John. Truth be told, back-to-back pregnancies struck me as a tad trailer-trashy and unseemly but I waddled on.

John, CD and Uncle John Salter
John, CD and Uncle John Salter

In March, at my monthly appointment, my OB couldn’t find a fetal heartbeat. (This was the first time she tried.) Alarmed, she ordered an ultrasound and – surprise!

Despite looking ready to drop, I wasn’t deep in my fourth month – not even close. I was two weeks pregnant. In other words, months ago – when I fretted about how 1984 would be one big pregnant blur – I wasn’t even a little bit pregnant. Instead of giving birth in July, as everyone I knew now expected, I’d deliver in October.

Sam with Aunt Joyce Salter
Sam with Aunt Joyce Salter

How could such a mix-up happen? The hospital stood by their initial positive pregnancy test, suggesting I subsequently miscarried (without noticing it) and promptly conceived again. I thought it far more likely they screwed up the test and – under the delusion I was already pregnant – I quit nursing after which I conceived for real.

My father stands behind my sister Janet
My father stands behind my sister Janet

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. By now, John and I were fully adjusted to the prospect of three children.  The fact he or she would be a Libra rather than a Gemini was no reason to reconsider.

I have another more fantastical theory about what happened. It has no scientific basis in fact. In my myth, Alex and Sam knew each other in previous incarnations, different lifetimes. Maybe they were lovers, maybe one parented the other, maybe one saved the other’s life.  Regardless of what bound them, their connection ran deep. In this lifetime, Alex wanted to be close to Sam – this time, to watch her grow up.  The strength of his love and the sheer force of his will powered him through time and space and created that magical mishap with my pregnancy test all to bring them together again – this time as siblings.

Sam and Alex reunited in this lifetime as siblings.
Sam and Alex reunited in this lifetime as siblings.

Watching them grow up together might make you a believer too. I never want to spend two years pregnant again, thank you very much. But if I was required to be pregnant for ten years to bring Alex into the world, I’d do it. No regrets. It was meant to be.

December 20, 2003

december-202003

A family portrait without Sam - a common occurence in these years.
A family portrait without Sam – a common occurence in these years.

 If I’d understood how hard it is to send a child away to college – how much you miss them when they’re gone – I would’ve been a more sensitive daughter. Unfortunately, there was no way to transmit this belated insight to my college-age children. They all went away to school with nary a thought about how their mother might cope.

Sam is back for this one! Sitting in her Dad's lap.
Sam is back for this one! Sitting in her Dad’s lap.

My two sons chose Southern California colleges within driving distance of our house.  Sam selected a small campus in upstate New York – nearer Rochester and Canada than Manhattan – which meant we saw her over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break (and of course summers). The first year was the most unbearable, but the fourth was by no means easy. I kept hoping below zero temperatures and snow would send her screaming for California sunshine but she stuck it out

A happy cousins reunion! From left to right, Sam, Alex, and Carly Salter Govind
A happy cousins reunion! From left to right, Sam, Alex, and Carly Salter Govind

Despite the psychological distress her prolonged absence caused me, I’m glad she experienced life in a completely new environment. Aside from three months I lived in NY – both my daughter and I were there on 9/11/01 (Link to September 11, 2001) – I’ve spent my entire post age-five life in California. My husband was born in California and never lived anyplace else.

dream

J and I share a retirement dream designed to remedy this geographical deficit. Whether or not we’ll achieve it – who knows? It’s fun to think about. We’d sell or rent our present house for at least two years and live six months in New York, six months in Paris, six months in Rome and six months in Berlin. We estimate six months is about enough time to learn how a neighborhood works. Twenty years ago, we would’ve missed our children too much to consider it, but now that cell phones get reception everywhere and there’s always the option of skype, what’s to hold us back? Here’s hoping we live long enough and the world as we know it still exists.

Where will we go, what will we do? After 41 plus years together, it's sure to be an adventure.
Where will we go, what will we do? After 41 plus years together, it’s sure to be an adventure.

November 26, 1966

november-26-1966

 She didn’t wait till the next day; she called my father long-distance that night. She made Natalie trade rooms with her and didn’t let me out of her sight. I was supposed to meet Alan for church in the morning so we could exchange phone numbers and contact information but it was impossible. Since he thought my name was Natalie, I figured that was that.

Kathy and Natalie - which is which?
Kathy and Natalie – which is which?

Back at home, my father expressed mild disappointment but he didn’t make it into a big deal. I was home free.

A week later, my father knocked on my bedroom door. “I got an unusual letter at church.”

He unfolded a sheet of paper. “Dear Pastor Knutsen,” he read. “My name is Alan Sorenson.” He glanced at me. A surge of adrenalin left me shaky. He resumed. “I’m a Luther Leaguer from Pacific Palisades Lutheran who recently attended the “Get a Light” convention in Palm Springs. I’m trying to locate a young lady I met there named Natalie.  She’s tall, around 5’9”, with shoulder-length brown hair.” He stopped. “Sound like anybody you know, Kathleen?”

Natalie and Kathy - which is which?
Natalie and Kathy – which is which?

Uh-oh. He called me Kathleen, not Kathy. “A little like me, maybe?”

“That’s what I thought – but your name’s not Natalie.”

I couldn’t concoct a plausible lie. “All right, Nat and I wanted to try being someone else. But it wasn’t to be mean.”

The right corner of his mouth turned up. He wasn’t angry – he was amused.

Although I am the pastor's kid, I couldn't help getting my halo slightly tarnished now and then
Although I was and still am the pastor’s kid, I couldn’t help getting my halo slightly tarnished now and then

Alan was not even slightly amused. He was mortified that he addressed his letter to my father. He didn’t appreciate being lied to, especially about being a PK, the likes of which he’s not really into dating. Tough luck for him, I’m a PK for life.  So what if league sponsors spied on me and concerned parishioners gossiped? As long as the pastor in question was my dad, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The PK with the Pastor
The PK with the Pastor

October 28, 1964

october-28-1964

 

My father with the women in his life
My father with the women in his life

 To say my sisters and I adored my father would be a huge understatement. In our all-female household, he was the sun we all orbited around. The reason I started writing stories in the first place was to please him. Before I trotted off to school in second grade, I placed the latest pages of my first novel – printed in pencil on lined paper –on his pillow. It was titled “LOST” (yeah, the TV series stole it from me.) It told the thrilling tale of twelve children of a “steamstress” (ibid), all kidnapped by two evil guys. Instead of escaping however, these children opted to convert their kidnappers to Christianity. Yes, I was definitely the daughter of a Lutheran minister.

I'm not sure which Bible story this is, but Jani and our dog are getting a ride.
I’m not sure which Bible story this is, but Jani and our dog are getting a ride.

We used to act out Bible stories for entertainment. The Good Samaritan was a favorite. Daddy played the victim on the side of the road. I must have been a Pharisee since Janet was definitely the Good Samaritan. Daddy was hugely amused when – after retrieving a glass of water from the kitchen to save his life – she invariably stopped and drank half of it herself before offering it to him.

sANDY + Kathy = KANDY
sANDY + Kathy = KANDY

The more worldly side of my life at school was all about me and Sandy. We combined our names and gave our friendship a name – Kandy.  We loved to create things, in this case our own dictionary, although I’m pretty sure we never used a single word from it in real life. In addition to our dictionary, we made drafted plans for an elaborate campaign to make ourselves popular – needless to say, a total failure – but I’ll get to that in another diary entry.

how-to-be-popular

 


Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/katrow6/kathleenrowell.com/wp-content/plugins/clicky/clicky.php on line 447
Skip to toolbar