father

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.

April 20, 2014

April 20, 2014

Easter 2014 - Me
Easter 2014 – Me

Easter Eggs

I wish I’d written more about this. Easter was my Lutheran pastor father’s favorite holiday, probably because it’s symbolic of redemption and forgiveness – the most important tenets of Christianity as he practiced and preached it.

Easter 2014 - Cousins & Dogs.
Easter 2014 – Cousins & Dogs.

Easter Eggs

I would’ve written more if I’d known this would be his last Easter but – as ridiculous as it sounds – I never believed there’d be a “last” anything for him. Even as he edged into his eighties and eventually turned 89, a world without him was inconceivable – which meant he’d live forever.

Easter 2014 - Alex and Dad posing for the camera - then in conversation.
Easter 2014 – Alex and Dad posing for the camera – then in conversation.

Easter Eggs

I wasn’t alone in assigning him immortality. On one family holiday, he distributed copies of his self-published autobiography to his children and grandchildren. Driving home with Sam and Alex, I told them to treasure their copies because “he won’t always be here.”

Easter 2014 - Serena.
Easter 2014 – Serena.

Easter Eggs

“No!” Sam said, genuinely horrified by this possibility. I knew exactly where she came from. There could never be a “last” anything for him, we needed him too much. So how could I have guessed this was his last Easter? And if somehow, I’d known in advance – what would I do differently?

Easter 2014 - Pies
Easter 2014 – Pies

Easter Eggs

A lot of things although I know he’d absolve me. After one memorable late night dinner, when my cousin Wayne, his wife and mother were in town and we stayed up until midnight talking, the subject of death came up. As a pastor, my father saw more grieving people than most. He said it’s universal – every single person who loses someone they love has regret about things said and done or unsaid and undone. Everyone.

Easter 2014 - Alex, Chris, Sam.
Easter 2014 – Alex, Chris, Sam.

Easter Eggs

Then he said – very clearly – “When I’m gone, don’t feel guilty about anything you could’ve said or done. It’s all right, exactly as it should be.”

Easter 2014 - Sisters & Mom.
Easter 2014 – Sisters & Mom.

Easter Eggs

So why do I feel guilty anyway? Not only about him – about my mother, who followed him less than a year later, and Yolanda, who left us a few months ago. I owed all of them more than I gave. I didn’t see the “last time” coming even when it stared me in the face. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I told myself I had plenty of time – I could say “I love you” or do that favor “later”. When it was more convenient.

Easter 2014 - Mom & Dad.
Easter 2014 – Mom & Dad.

Easter Eggs

But time ran out. It’s too late to write down what we talked about on my father’s last Easter. It’s easy to say, “No regrets.” It’s hard to let go of them when I miss him so much. What I wouldn’t give for one more chance to talk to him.

 

April 16, 2006

April 16, 2006_edited-1

An earlier partial family Easter portrait at Salem Lutheran.
An earlier partial family Easter portrait at Salem Lutheran.

 This is one of those rare character flaws that – I think – diminishes with age. I made enough messes that eventually I learned from my mistakes. I suspect the impulse to talk too much, too indiscreetly – at least for me – sprang from insecurity. I’d blurt out something I shouldn’t in order to interest or impress somebody who intimidated me. It was never a particularly successful tactic, I’m surprised I persisted for so long.

Kids and dogs in McCann backyard. Before or since, Alex has NEVER had such long hair.
Kids and dogs in McCann backyard. Before or since, Alex has NEVER had such long hair.

My children don’t believe I’ve matured enough to be trusted with a secret. Any leak, anywhere, and they jump to the conclusion I’m responsible. In contrast, they’re capable of carrying secrets to their graves which makes it difficult – almost impossible – to ferret out info about their personal lives. This hardly seems fair, until I remember how many secrets I kept from my own mother.

Connor McCann, Sam and Alex with our dog Daisy, blowing bubbles and counting Easter eggs in the backyard.
Connor McCann, Sam and Alex with our dog Daisy, blowing bubbles and counting Easter eggs in the backyard.
Chris and Serena, in charge of the Easter egg hunt.
Chris and Serena, in charge of the Easter egg hunt.
Bree Salter Reiber and Sam having fun.
Bree Salter Reiber and Sam having fun.
An Easter family portrait in the McCann backyard.
An Easter family portrait in the McCann backyard.

I’ve become a huge fan of a site called Post Secrets. link  http://postsecret.com/  People mail their secrets on postcards, anonymously. Some are selected and posted on the web site (new ones every Sunday morning) and some appear in a series of Post Secret books. I check the site every Sunday. Usually, one or two secrets resonate with me. Almost always, at least one suggests an idea for a short story.

Post Secret book cover
Post Secret book cover

However, some aren’t really secrets at all. I’m referring to those in which someone brags and pretends it’s a secret. “I just want to be a good person.” What’s so secret about that? “I used to think the Sistine Chapel was called the 16th Chapel!” Cute story, but hardly a big secret.

Pyramid of postcards
Pyramid of postcards

This one is such a deep dark secret, someone cut out words from magazines and pasted them onto the postcard to avoid identification. Brace yourself! “Every time I accidentally wrong someone on the road, I wish I could apologize.” Really?? That’s your deep dark secret, you’re a sensitive, caring nice person?

Who remembers this TV show that ran from June 19, 1952 until its final episode on April 3, 1967?
Who remembers this TV show that ran from June 19, 1952 until its final episode on April 3, 1967?

You get the gist. IMHO, to qualify as a secret, it’s got to be something you genuinely don’t want anybody to know. I’ve got some. Do you?

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.


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