Today in My History
2001:Blowing in the Wind
2002: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
2003: Clams,,,and SUGAR?
2004: Sweatin' with the Mayor
2005: Yes, but you DON'T Go
2006: The Reservoir
2007: I Broke My Mother's Chair
2008: Going Into Hiding
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"The Black Echo"
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CIRCLE THE HERD
8 February 2009
The mental image that I have had for a long time of the Pinata group, especially the women of Generation 1, has been that of a herd of elephants, who all gather around to take care of other members of the herd, to help the little ones in trouble, to grieve together over the death of one of their members, etc. (Since I have great respect for elephant society, no higher praise can be given!)
I think the first time this mental image came to me was many, many years ago when Charlotte's father died of Parkinson's Disease. Except for Charlotte's mother and sister, nobody had a clue who we were, but we all huddled together to pay our respects and to give support to Char.
We all knew each other's parents, some of us knew some of them better than others of us knew others of them, but we all showed up at Claude's funeral and I thought about how female elephants (since males are kicked out of the herd when they get to be adolescents) bond together and support each other in good times as well as in bad.
Our little herd of elephants has gathered for all the kids' marriages, for the funeral of each other's siblings, parents, and children, as each has passed on. We've gathered for weddings and christenings. We went to Lawsuit concerts and graduations. We helped each other move into and out of houses. The group even went to a night club in Marin County to support my father when he got a gig as the bar pianist. And of course we've gotten together a lot to party in the good times.
I thought about that again yesterday. I was going to the first "get acquainted" dinner held for this trip Jeri and I are taking. I would drive to Char's house and we'd go together to the dinner and then I'd spend the night at her house and drive home in the morning.
In the meantime, another one of the "elephants," Concetta (about whom I don't write very much because she has MS and has had no movement below the neck in so long that she doesn't get out as much as she used to) had been hospitalized with pneumonia. She has so little lung capacity anyway because of the MS (her voice is just barely audible when you talk to her) that each time she gets pneumonia it is literally life threatening. In fact, she told one of her daughters that she would survive this episode, but didn't think she'd survive another one. The last time we saw Concetta was last year at her mother's funeral.
Well, Concetta's daughter was flying in from Australia, where she lives with her husband and kids to be with her mother and Jeri's godmother Jeri D. was driving in from Arizona to see Concetta. I decided that I'd stay down and go to the hospital to visit her too and come home later today. Again, there was that sense of the elephants all lumbering around someone in need.
Jeri D.'s husband died nearly three years ago (most of the Pinata kids came from all over the country to be here for his memorial, including Jeri, who flew in from Boston to play "Amazing Grace" to close out the memorial). Jeri D. has recently met a widower (ironically named Phil--so we now have two couples named Jeri and Phil!) and they have become very close. She recently wrote on Facebook that she had showed Phil some pictures of the Pinata Group and that "this group is very difficult to explain." No kidding!
Well, Jeri and Phil arrived on Thursday and they, too, were staying at Char & Mike's house and I have to think that after spending the better part of two days with Jeri, Char and me, Phil has a better idea of the incestuous nature of this group, as we sat around talking about when I lived with Char and Mike and when we all went camping in Death Valley and Walt and I had to borrow Jeri and Bill's tent, and the kindergarten teacher of our Jeri and Char's Jenny, whose team teacher became our good friend, and the time the kids all destroyed Concetta's basement by grinding candy from the pinata into the floor, and when we all took the kids to watch animals being unloaded from the circus train and nearly got trampled by elephants, and how we called Pat to come over when Char decided to let me toss a pumpkin pie in her face, so Pat could film it all, and all the years that Jeri & Bill's family room was filled with sleeping bodies in sleeping bags because all of the Generation 1 folks had taken over all the beds...
...and how the kids always lined up according to age when they went to break a pinata, usually made by Pat (at this point Mike produced a list of all the birth dates of all the kids that Pat made years ago for all of us). And when Char and Mike took Concetta to visit her daughter in Australia (a major task when you take someone who can't move from the neck down).
The stories went on and on and on, our lives criss crossing across 50 years, always intertwined, always linked, always just one big family with lots of different names. We think of how sad it is that the Generation 3 kids don't know each other the way the Generation 2 kids did. We always treated everybody's kids as our own. We disciplined them with our kids. Heck we probably each nursed someone else's child a least once.
By the time breakfast was over this morning we had probably made clearer "this group" for Phil than could ever be done showing him photos (and he hadn't run out of the room screaming yet!)
Also by the end of the day, Phil had our seal of approval. He's a very sweet guy, who lost his own wife about a year after Bill died. He and Jeri seem very good together and we are happy to see her so happy.
Jeri, Phil and I all drove in to Berkeley to visit Concetta, who actually looks better than I expected (because she's getting first class nursing care, which she doesn't get at home). We only stayed a short time because another friend had come, as he does every day, to read her the newspaper. By the time he would be leaving, Audrey, another of the "elephants" would have arrived to visit her as well.
Then we drove back to Char & Mike's house, taking the road up over the hills, since the freeway was so clogged. Probably took us longer than if we had sat in the traffic, but it was one of those glorious days in the Bay Area and the views were spectacular. It was worth the extra time, even if it did mean fighting with cyclists, who seem to think that "share the road" means "your car waits behind us while we spread out all across the roadway as we struggle up this steep hill."
I arrived home this evening feeling so blessed to have these marvelous friends, to be a part of this group of "elephants" who all care for each other so much and who have all been there for each other for almost all of our lives.
Tomorrow I'll report on the dinner we went to on Friday.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
MILES TO NOWHERE: 94.5 miles