Pretty much all baby animals make me happy, but look at this cute thing. Giraffes are so awesome.
Pretty much all baby animals make me happy, but look at this cute thing. Giraffes are so awesome.
“A man reserves his true and deepest love not for the species of woman in whose company he finds himself electrified and enkindled, but for that one in whose company he may feel tenderly drowsy.” ~George Jean Nathan
It's been almost five months since my dad passed away. I've been wanting to write about his life, but contemplating how I would find the way to put all his years into words, to record what knowing him for so many of those has meant to me, seemed impossible. I just couldn't, there was too much. But friends sharing their memories of him paved the way. How he drove a childhood friend from Maryland to Virginia so she could visit me. A college friend remembering his quick wit and sense of humor. Another who'd never met him but remembered a story I'd told her about him. One of my dearest friends sending me grinning photos of him at her wedding.
I learned several things I didn't know about Dad upon his death. About his military honors for one...Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (and more). About an emergency helicopter landing in a schoolyard when he was in flight school. That he was called "Thumper" after a helicopter crash in Vietnam (which he miraculously lived through) left his leg in a cast. I learned more about his career as a health physicist for the Army Medical Service Corps. He was a stronger man than I knew in many ways, and while his last months of life fighting cancer demonstrated much of that strength to me, they're simply not how I can remember him. The end is too sad. I struggle not to focus on it and instead try to remember the beginning, and everything in between.
Dad was born Wolfgang Amadeus Kolsch on September 12, 1944 in Cuxhaven, Germany in his grandmother's living room. He was called "Wolfie" as a boy up until his mom divorced his dad, married an American in the Air Force, moved to England, and then on to the United States where he was legally adopted by his stepfather and renamed Gary Wolfgang Gaston. While he lost his mother tongue (he was discouraged from speaking German after the war), he didn't lose his heritage, or his nickname. Dad was always Wolfie to the family he said goodbye to as a young boy.
I remember stories about his childhood Dachschund named Mr. Hinkel. How my dad loved that dog as a kid, and how my grandmother showed great restraint in not killing it. I remember stories from high school and his fondness for his college days. About road trips home with his fraternity brothers where my grandmother would cook for them. It was in college where he met and dated my mom. Dad became the first person in his family to go to college and earn a bachelor's degree. And later, the first to earn a master's degree.
Random things, too many to count. He was a lefty. He played tennis and raquetball. He spent every Sunday evening shining his shoes and ironing his shirts for work. He'd give me the vodka-soaked olives from his martinis. He had the oiliest hair on the planet.
He was a loner in a lot of ways. To himself a lot, an avid reader, an analytical intellectual at heart. But also really social...always hosting friends at the house, enjoyed cooking for everyone. He was fun and funny. He was involved in the community and enjoyed the responsibility that went along with it. He was ethical. Intolerant of stupidity. And meticulous, about everything. He was fiercely loyal and devoted to friends and family. If I could crystallize my parents' relationship down to a common shared value, that's it. If my dad (or mom) was your friend, you were a lucky person. Maybe it was the military community culture that made them that way, I'm not sure, but I shared a table with a number of people throughout the years who didn't have anywhere else to go for the holidays, or were in town briefly for work, or for whatever reason my parents felt deserved their time and attention.
One friend in particular, a college student Dad had taken under his wing in grad school, sent my mom a touching letter when he learned that Dad had passed away. When people think of someone's legacy, maybe first and foremost they think of that person's children. My brother and I most certainly are a reflection of our parent's careful upbringing. But this letter goes beyond that, beyond immediate family. It's about the family we make in our friends, about the effect you can have on someone's life without even knowing it. This friend shared how Dad's presence and influence started him on the path to the wonderful life he enjoys and lives today. That most of what he has, and who he is today, is due to my parents. How grateful he was that Dad helped him get into the Army, mentored him as an officer, and explained war to him. How thankful he was that my parents welcomed him into their home and fed him at a time when he was skipping meals to pay for school. How Dad had accurately predicted he'd marry the woman who eventually became his wife. How my parents, quite simply, had changed his life.
When friends share their memories, and when I read the letter, I can't help but think of the very best of my dad: his devotion, his loyalty, his humor, his intellect, his big, soft heart. I'm thankful for all the memories people shared of him. I'm grateful for the love he gave to me. And proud of the love he gave to others.
May we all live so well.
Gary Wolfgang Gaston
September 12, 1944 - February 2, 2012
When I was scheduling time with my personal trainer last week he told me he couldn't meet this coming Wednesday because he was going to the Blink 182 concert. He said Blink 182 was the first concert he ever went to when he was 13 years old. Guess he added the age for emphasis. Or to test my math skills.
So I chimed in that my first concert was OMD. He looked at me like he didn't have any idea what I was talking about, so I said, "you know, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, 'If you leave'?" Blank stare. I actually sang a few bars. Didn't help. I knew it was futile, but I kept going..."you know, from Pretty in Pink...the John Hughes movie." Nothing.
One minute you're jamming with your friends in the eighties, the next you're staring into the face of a generation that doesn't know John Hughes' movies. All I could say was see you Thursday.
1) Launching a new program at work - on time!
2) Being motivated to hit the gym
4) A hot shower before bed
5) The way the fog sits at 92 and 101
Wage a battle against embitterment at Grace in Small Things.
When I was driving home tonight I saw a random shoe in the middle of the highway. When I see those I always wonder what the back story is. How does a shoe just get left in the middle of a highway?
It reminded me of this shoe I found outside of my house a few weeks ago on the sidewalk. I left it there thinking someone might retrace their steps trying to find it once they realized it was missing, but then a couple of days later I found it in the middle of my driveway.
Something about the singularity of it made me think about Prince Charming and his quest for the girl fitting a lost shoe. Which made me think if this is the modern day version of Cinderella's glass slipper I'm in big trouble. I wonder if these come in a 8 1/2?
On September 11, 2001 I was in Fort Worth, Texas, at an American Airlines partner conference.
Because I hopped in my car early for the commute from Dallas, and I rarely listen to the news in the morning, I didn't know what had happened until I got there. By the time I arrived people were glued to TV sets in the hotel. I walked up to see the Twin Towers in flames. After that, I don't remember the order, just chaos. Towers crumbling. The Pentagon. The crash in Pennsylvania.
It was both unbelieveable and terrifying. Seeing and thinking of all the people in those buildings and on the planes. The fear they must have felt. The loss was overwhelming. I remember standing there with tears rolling down my face surrounded by employees whose company's planes had been used to carry out this plan. I thought how much more personal it must have been for them losing colleagues and passengers.
The conference organizer gathered us together, said a few words. A prayer if I remember correctly, or that's what I remember saying to myself as he spoke. I called a friend to check on her husband, an American Airlines pilot. Thankfully, he was safe.
There was no conference that day. Some people stayed and watched the televisions, most people scattered and left. I drove back home, and as I made my way through downtown Dallas and its tall buildings, I remember being scared.
I spent the rest of the day with my friend Susan in front of the TV, learning the details, trying to comprehend the uncomprehendable. And like virtually every September 11th since, I heard from her today. She'll send an email or make a phone call remembering that we shared that day together.
Like no other day before it, I think of it as one we all shared together.
Love this. Ann Curry tweeted it today...her favorite quote, Merlin to the young King Arthur:
"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake in the middle of the night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting."
-from The Once and Future King by T.H. White
It's been done many times, different ways, with different people, but this version of Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For with Bruce Springsteen is one of my favorites. I believe this was recorded when U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bruce gave a great speech that night, but the simple, poignant words from Edge in the beginning of the video... I love.