To our good friends.
I am having a difficult time writing this Christmas letter and it may be a little different from usual. But I wish for all of you a wonderful holiday. It has been a mostly good year for us, except for the end of it. Walt and I are both doing well. He is still on the Board for Citizens who Care, a group which works to help the frail elderly. I am still a theater critic and still volunteering at Logos Books one day a week, a great little used book store owned by my friend Char's cousin, and which donates its proceeds ($45,000 this year) to Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children.
Walt and I were to have taken a cruise in the south of France with our lifelong friends and traveling companions, Mike and Char in October. They decided to do a cruise in Germany first, meet us in Paris, and then take the France tour with us. However, Mike fell ill in Magdeburg, Germany, where he died of previously undiagnosed pancreatic cancer. He died the day after Char's sister died of lung cancer in San Francisco.
At the same time, my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy, and was scheduled to start chemotherapy. I flew to Iowa to help out for 3+ weeks as she went through her first rounds of treatment, to help with the practical stuff, and be there for emotional support. I was there for Thanksgiving with her family and hated to leave her when I came home, but I also wanted to be home again too.
It was difficult to return to my mother's dementia again.
So I am at 6s and 7s at this Christmas season, wanting to enjoy the season and the festivities but with the shadow of death, illness, and dementia hanging over everything.
My mother turned 95 this year and wonders if she is going to live to "hunnert." She doesn't understand why she's still here since only the good die young and she was always the "good one," though all of her siblings are gone now. She has been at Atria/Covell Gardens for a year and a half and is still able to live in her own apartment, though she does not participate in any of the activities the place offers. She says that she's 95 and has earned the right to do nothing, if she doesn't want to do anything. We do, occasionally, drive to San Rafael so she can have lunch with her old friends from the days when she worked for Hospice of Marin.
Walt and I flew to Boston to visit Jeri and Phil in September. We watched the Red Sox lose a game, visited good restaurants (had nice clam "chowda"), had great home BBQ, and saw a new musical, Finding Neverland, which is headed for Broadway and which I thought was absolutely fabulous. Afterwards we had the best ice cream ever at Toscana's in Cambridge.
While we were there, Jeri participated in something called Boston Hub on Wheels, a ride with a group of thousands of other bikers, riding some 35 miles through the scenic, historic and back roads of Boston. Walt met her at the halfway point, near their house, so he could bring her sun glasses and sun screen.
Jeri and Phil...
One thing I love about Berklee College of Music is that when they put on a show, they often stream it on the Internet, so we have been able to watch Jeri conducting her students in several performances. She set herself to learn to play the cello and while Yoyo Ma's job is safe for the moment, she can play recognizable melodies. She also ran a couple of races again this year.
Phil is entering his 4th or 5th year as caregiver for a young man with Cerebral Palsy, trying to help him be ready to be independent when he reaches 18 -- it's a frustrating job, but he is dedicated to the goal. He also still works with handicapped people at a day program. I remember we watched the rehearsal of one of their shows when we were there a year ago.
They were in Davis in August when they performed a concert with Ned and Marta (and other old Lawsuit friends) on the place we call "Paul Plaza" (because the performing area has a plaque dedicating it to Paul) in Downtown Davis.
It was wonderful when they played old Lawsuit songs that so many people got up and danced like it was the 1990s again. I was all verklempt. I was especially emotional at this picture. The young man playing trombone next to Jeri on the left had not been conceived when Paul died. Ever time I see Milo, I realize how long Paul and Dave have been gone.
Ned and Marta...
Marta says, "After 6 years of training and planning and avoiding and learning and creating and procrastinating and writing and whining and developing, I'm going pro with a new business. You can check out UnconditionallyHappy.com for the details, but in a bite-sized blurb, it's "alternative healing & counseling methods for deep shifts in personal perspective, leading to transformation of the choices and decisions you make, ultimately enabling you to create the life your heart truly long to live." I work with anyone who wants to be happier, but I bring a little more to the table with the following issues: addiction/recovery, relationships, financial wellness, spiritual development. I do all sessions by phone, so can work with folks all over the country. It's exciting and terrifying all at once, and off to a slow start, so I'll let you know how it goes in next year's letter. And yes, I'm still doing massage for the time being. Other than being a voracious consumer of library e-books, and systematically trying every brunch available in Sacramento with Ned, that's pretty much my life right now."
In addition to going to brunch with Marta, Ned continues writing jingles for radio and making videos for his station's web site. He has been wonderful to his grandmother this year, visiting her often and being conscientious in checking in with her when Walt and I are not in Davis.
Tom and Laurel...
Tom and Laurel recently ran yet another marathon. They say "never again," but keep doing it!
The girls have had a busy year too. Bri is now 6 and Lacie 3. Lacie started pre-school and Bri is in kindergarten. Bri played T-ball (cutest thing ever) and later her first year of soccer (I got sick and wasn't able to watch her play soccer. Though she was the smallest on the team, her coach called her "fierce."). She is going to be performing in her first musical later this month, a grammar school production of The Music Man, which happens to be the very first musical that Paul performed in too. I expect to cry.
Frozen is still Very Big in their house and Lacie's birthday party had a Frozen theme. The girls will sing "Let it Go" for you at the drop of a hat.
And so we approach Christmas yet again, some of us with heavy hearts. Jeri and Phil are spending Christmas with Phil's family, but will fly in on the 26th to see my mother and attend Mike Blackford's memorial service two days later. It's not quite the season to be jolly.
All of our love to everyone who reads this and I wish for you a wonderful holiday (whichever you are celebrating) and may 2015 be a better year for all of us.
THE SYKES FAMILY
And our 19 sponsored children through Compassion, International:
Anjali and Venkanna (India), Annie Rose
and Fred (Philippines), Israel (Bolivia), Henrique (Brasil),