How things change, and how they stay the same

Fishing with Misty & Dad
An old photo (’75-ish?) from a fishing trip (Colorado?) with my sister and Dad

This blast from the past was taken in the mid-70’s and features a much younger (but no less geeky) yours truly, his squirt of a sister, and our dad.

Me

  • Just turned 50
  • Just celebrated 24 wonderful years of marriage to a woman I couldn’t have dreamed of meeting when this was taken
  • Have a 19-year-old son, making him quite a few years older than me in the picture
  • Work in computing (not much of a surprise to someone who knew me then)
  • Teach for a living (probably a lot less obvious when this was taken)
  • Have more than a little gray hair to document the years in between :-)

Misty

  • About to turn 46
  • Turned out to be the actual outdoorsperson in the family (we were a little slow to figure that out – gender stereotypes weigh heavy in the world)
  • After traveling through an undergraduate degree in music history, got a PhD in biology and now teaches animal behavior and conservation at UW Oshkosh
  • Is biking this summer (with her awesome dog in a trailer behind her!) from Ann Arbor, MI, to Ithaca, NY (I consider biking the 15 minutes across the Mississippi into downtown Minneapolis without dying an accomplishment)
  • Also turned out to be a teacher for a living, and an exceptional one at that (I suspect our mother has something to do with that)
  • Got to do field work in cool places like the Galapagos and Turkey (yeah, I have biologist envy)
  • Also has more than a little gray hair to document the years in between :-)

Dad

  • About to turn 83
  • After living for decades in Wichita Falls, TX (where Misty and I essentially spent our whole lives before going away to college), moved to Houston for roughly a decade
  • Then retired to NW Arkansas, where our folks still live an incredibly active life
  • Got really involved in the NW Arkansas jazz scene and knows all the celebs
  • Rediscovered (with Mom) his love for bridge, and they get invited to play with some pretty serious heavy hitters which is super cool
  • Joined with a submariner veterans group in NW Arkansas and has become a lot more connected to his experience on subs during the Korean War
  • Fishes as much as circumstances allow, but physically managing the boat and the truck and the gear, etc., etc., is proving tougher. Luckily he’s got friends that help a lot.
  • Has beaten cancer twice, but it hasn’t been easy and those battles have definitely left their marks

The crazy thing, though, is how much this old picture resonates with now. My sister and I have changed a ton, but my Dad still looks a lot like that. Thomas, Dad, and I went trout fishing on the White River in Arkansas last week, and it was pretty much just like I remember events like this picture. A few weeks before that, he and Misty went fishing in Lake Michigan near Green Bay. While we were in Arkansas, he and I took the recycling to the recycling center. He came with me to the car place while they looked at a rattle. We went to a picnic hosted by his submariners group. We listened to live jazz over a Sunday brunch. A lot of the details have changed, but the broad brushstrokes are still very recognizable; it’s definitely our strange, happy family.

Since she’s not in the picture, I end up pretty much ignoring my wonderful mother in this, which isn’t really cool. She just turned 75 and totally rocks, and is the rock of the family in so, so many ways. I suspect that while we were fishing she was back at the camper, bravely enduring the “great outdoors” when she would have much been somewhere with indoor plumbing :-). Love you Mom!

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Such a gift: 24 years with WeatherGrrrl

One of Sue's cool art books
One of Sue’s cool art books

…a commodity has value and a gift does not. A gift has worth. – Lewis Hyde

Tomorrow (24 June) marks the 24th anniversary of our marriage!

There are so many things I’m grateful for, and no way to enumerate them or document them here, so I’ll settle for an example.

Among her many “strangely inventive” artistic talents, Sue makes books. Wonderful, handmade books, where she cuts and folds all the paper, sews together the signatures, builds the cover, and glues it all together. Some of these are displayed in galleries, while others (such as the one pictured here) are notebooks or journals filled with blank pages inviting us to share our thoughts in word or sketch.

For the past several years, Sue has made such journals as high school graduation gifts for our and, more substantially, Tom’s friends in that year’s graduating class. As he moves on to college, the numbers are beginning to contract, but over the years she’s made many dozens of these books, often for people we didn’t actually know terribly well. That’s a lot of work, constructing by hand an object whose future is far from certain. She is, after all, making blank books, in an age where the future of books is at best unclear, an age where most are far more likely to send a text message or post on a blog [I’M LOOKING AT ME!] than to write a letter or keep a journal on paper.

Thus these are, in the true sense that Hyde means in the opening quote, gifts. As handcrafted pieces of art, they have clear worth, but their value (and how they are valued by the recipients) is quite uncertain.

Yet she keeps making them. In a flurry of activity every May between the end of the University school year and the high school graduation she cuts and folds and glues and frets. She picks out different papers to use as covers, and has Tom give her feedback on which covers would make the most sense for which graduate. She increases the worth of the world (if not its value) through these gifts, each of which is in fact a multiple gift. It is obviously a gift to the graduate, but this effort is also a gift to our son, and a thank-you to the families of these students who have been important to him.

And, to the point of all this, these are also a gift to me. For while each of these books is made by her and is officially a gift from Thomas, her work enriches us all and the glow it casts as it goes out into the world reflects back on our whole family even if it was her hands that did all the sewing.

So I say “Thank You”, for this and the untold gifts large and small that she has shared with me. It has been a truly splendid 24 years together, and I look forward to many more decades to come!

With all my love,

     – Nic

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