Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 11

My father was strict--not always warm and fuzzy, but his goatee was and he let me fluff it around. This must have been Easter as my mom always made sure I had a new dress, fancy hat and proper handbag to match my shoes.
I used to sit on the den couch with my dad and Bijou my sweet poodle. We watched baseball when the Pirates were playing and he always called me in to watch a program if someone was dancing. He never missed one of my private tap lessons and eventhough he was short on compliments and big on how to work harder advice, I know he was proud of me.
My father never smiled bigger (unless he was with Camille) than when he was surrounded by all 5 of his sisters, Clara, Stella, Rose, Sophie and Barbara. I'm sure he did the polka with each one this day! Especially with Sophie--she taught me how to polka. She was the queen of polka!
I love this photo so much because it reminds me of what a thinker he was. It makes me imagine what he was working on in his mind. He was beautiful and so put together all the way until the end.
Today he would have been 94. Happy Birthday Daddy, I miss you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanks and Giving

My mom spent Thanksgiving with us in Palo Alto for the first time in a long while. She made her homemade cinnamon rolls (two delicious batches!) and with Camille, made her gussied up pumpkin pie recipe. She sat and enjoyed the warm fire, gave the relentless Charlotte all the love she demanded (Bouzette too!) and survived all the fast moving Labats in the kitchen. On Saturday, after all was said and done and devoured, it was time to take her home. I hadn't been feeling well and it worried her that I was going to have to drive to Ventura. We got in the car and I saw an emotional Dorothy sitting next to me. I asked her if she was ok and she said, "I don't like being dependent. I could still do this drive by myself and I feel badly that you have to drive when you don't feel well." I said that for her, I would do anything even if I didn't feel like driving. The drive, it turns out, was spectacular and we did it with the top down (she's always game for anything!) all the way!
I woke up the next morning and readied myself for the drive back. I don't like leaving my mom alone in the driveway---how I wish my father were still there standing beside her. I needed to talk with him so I stopped at the pier to have my conversation. It's not the real deal but it helps. When I was little, I was scared to walk out on the pier because I could see the ocean between the planks. One day, we all walked out there (I'm sure I was riding piggy back with my dad) and miraculously the spaces had been closed up with additonal planks. For a long while, I believed that my father had done that for me, afterall, he was such a "fix it" person!
Next, I drove through the Santa Ynez Valley vineyards, top down, playing Mozart's Requiem and feeling so many emotions. That valley drive is my time to convene with the gods. It dawned on me then that what I should have said to my mother when she told me she didn't like being dependent was this: We are all dependent on each other. I need her as much as she needs me and I am so very fortunate to still have her to hug, to bug, and to love. Thanks and giving...she provides me with that opportunity.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Don't Put The Brakes On!

I don't like speed and I don't like to feel like my vehicle is spinning out of control! We were in Aspen on our snowmobiles and NOT going at top speed by most standards. Everyone was laughing and pressing down on that gas pedal and then there I was....pressing heavy on the brake and light on the gas. After awhile, I lost sight of them. I was trying to breathe and tell myself to enjoy the beauty all around me but honestly, I was scared. Every time the snowmobile slid to the edge of the road I panicked. I kept going....slowly (beyond slow) and then, up ahead, was Dave waiting for me. He was laughing at me but at the same time, caring that I was ok. He gave me many things, but one of the most important was the ability to laugh at myself. We have all talked about the infamous snowmobile ride over the years and done a lot of laughing about it but now....I wish I could hear his laughter all over again. I'll be cautious going forward---that's just my nature, but I will not put the brakes on living! His lessons keep speaking to me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Conversation with Dave

Dave, you never met a conversation you didn't like! You could talk about most any subject but I always felt that your favorite conversations were those in which you knew you were helping someone.You were so dedicated to your friends and inspired by your family. You lived with the wind at your back as I know you always believed that you would depart early. And so on a day that began like any other, a huge gust of wind came into the calm--a wind too strong for anyone to battle, and took you with it. Your heart might have been weak in that moment but it was one of the biggest hearts I have known.
I felt so sad that I couldn't say goodbye, but then I realized along the way, that you have lived your life as one big goodbye. You know what I mean by that! You lived exactly how you wanted to, you lived large and you gave everything you had. Any one moment of your life could have been the last and you would have been satisfied with how you lived. To me, you said goodbye each time you shared yourself with me. You had the ability to know what you needed but you also had the vision to see beyond what you needed over to what you desired. That is what made your life so full.
You planted your stakes firmly in the ground, you made waves in the sea and you flew high in the sky --you wanted it all! Your last ride was Friday. You were on the ground looking at the sea and enjoying the clear blue sky with your lovely Shari. It was perfect. If we could all orchestrate our lives so majestically!
Well, I have to tell you that I am not ready to end my conversation with you. I just can't. And something tells me that I don't have to. I hear you talking in my head and I know that everyone of your loved ones can hear you too. There are those voices that just don't disappear. You, my dearest Dave, are someone who will never disappear. Thank you for the thousands of conversations we've had over 34 years and for indulging me in the ones that we will continue to have for years to come. I love you.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Last night I went to see "Midnight in Paris", Woody Allen's new film. No, this is not a film review but rather a "note to self" (I quote Peggy Fleming here).
To say that life has been stressful lately is putting it mildly. I have not been tending to my own "garden" as it were. My "garden" is where inspiration blossoms, passion is grown, and my soul is nurtured. Last night I was desperate to water the garden and somehow I knew that "Midnight in Paris" would fill that need. I printed tickets ahead of time as I had the feeling that there would be a crowd at the small Menlo Park theatre called "The Guild". There was. We got the last seats in the very front row off to the left side. The only visual in that location was the art deco molding in antique gold swirls that kept my attention until the movie started.
I am the kind of person who gets very involved in a movie when I am in the audience. There is no half-way particpation for me. So when the movie started, I felt transported to Paris...immediately. The film took me far away from myself and yet it managed to steer me into the tightly bound chambers of my heart at the same time. I know when I am being transported because the feeling in my face changes. My jaw relaxes and I feel a wash sweeping over my skin. It is transformational and it feels as if my own curtain is rising. It's emotional and so very satisfying.
When the lights came up and it was time to exit the theatre, noone left quickly. There was so much excitement and joy all around. When I finally started up the aisle I realized that the magic had not ended with the film. There was an older man standing looking up at the screen and he had the most marvelous look on his face. It reminded me of the feeling I get when I look at Parisian apartments and wonder what went on in them over the years. I would love to have known what memories were passing through his mind and heart in that moment. Everywhere I looked, people's faces were reflecting the magic of the film. What an accomplishment for a filmmaker!
There is such glory in art. I want to share in its glory...we all need to feel its transformational effects so that we can live very full lives. Art tends to our soul the way that water tends to the garden.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Moving Adventure

For anyone who knows our family and knows the escapades of the past few Hollywoodian months, it is my hope that you can join me in finding the humor in this print on the Uhaul that brought Camille home from the "barrio" and brought my 91 year old mother along for the ride.
Life is certainly an adventure !

Ode to My Former Self

I look at this photograph taken on Christmas Eve and I now know it captured the moment before my life profoundly changed. I felt happy to be with my family and friends and was looking forward to spending the next few days with my parents. I was drinking champagne, appreciating all the Christmas decorations in the San Francisco restaurant we were dining in, and feeling the joys of the holiday season. And then the year turned.
I remember going to the bank and asking the manager how she the holidays were for her. She looked up at me with her pale face and sad eyes and told me how the year had already begun with illness and death in her family. I walked back to my car thinking I had escaped all of that for the moment and yet I had the very distinct feeling that I was on borrowed time.
I was...we all are. In two months, my father would die and I would become a different person.
Now, two more months have passed and I am learning to live with myself differently. I don't get to be my father's little girl any more--at least not in the physical realm. I miss her, I miss him and I miss the me I got to be when I was with him. Colors are so much brighter now and sounds louder. Feelings are stronger and yet my heart beats less confidently. Everything, everything is amplified by 10. I just want to be quiet. I want to be well. I wish I could reach out and touch my father and I wish I could reach in and find my former self.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Composition

Sitting, waiting. Life in review. Born artists we are...writing our own songs. Off key, on key --we are a prelude to our own lives and then we are a succession of chords, a refrain and a reprise if lucky. We sing in chorus with our friends and loved ones...joyful, full of hot air and deep breaths. Breathe.... We breathe our way to the end of the song and until the last breath we give it our all. Each day begins with a familiar tune and we hum it gladly, full of life and harmony. When the sun sets, our voices go quiet.

Sitting, watching my father breathe quietly, machines beeping all around us making noise like scratches in old records... I close my eyes and hear him practicing his songs for his singing lessons. He's in our family room warming up his deep voice, standing so tall and singing the first few words to his favorite song, "Old Man River". It calms me to remember.

If the maestro were to enter the room, the message would certainly be: keep composing, sing loudly and harmonize together. Sing until your breath is gone. Life is your composition.