Christmas Letter -- the On-Line
A new year, a new millennium, a return of The Christmas Letter. It doesn’t seem possible that Paul has been dead a year and a half, and that we will soon be passing the 4th anniversary of David’s death. Life goes on for the rest of us and God has opened a few windows following the doors that he shut. People ask us “how do you cope?” Our answer is always “what choice do we have?” We can all curl up into a ball and give up, but that isn’t our style. We are so incredibly grateful that we had Paul and David through to adulthood, that both of them made positive contributions in their worlds, and that both of them are remembered for the difference they made in the lives of their friends. It may be said that they died prematurely, but I like to think that whatever their job was, they finished it. It is for the rest of us to see if we can figure out what our own jobs are.
For Walt, his own job is continuing to work for the agriculture department. He’s the “old man” of the office now, where he was once the young kid in the propeller beanie. He’s the one they go to to find the answer to things that happened so long ago nobody in the office remembers. He’s worked a lifetime with the government. Outside of the office his interests and activities remain pretty much the same--he still goes and stands at all the San Francisco operas, builds sets for the Davis Comic Opera Co., and works on the tech crew (when there is one, which is rare these days) for The Lamplighters. He and I have kept our season tickets to the San Francisco symphony and to the Lamplighters and so we regularly travel to San Francisco for entertainment.
His big adventure this year was flying to Boston to go to Fenway Park with Jeri. They planned the trip for months and just had the best time. They saw two Red Sox games, one which they won and one which they lost.
He and I went together to Portland for another gathering of our CompuServe friends. It was a long weekend-- and a very long drive, but we enjoyed ourselves and were able to take time to visit non-CompuServe friends as well. In January 2000 we went to Houston to help our friend Lynn turn 50.
In the spring, the city dedicated a performing area of a new plaza to Paul, with a ceremony that included running a videotape of his performance of his monologue show, “Sedona, Arizona.” People paid money to have patio bricks engraved, many of which were in either Paul’s or David’s honor. It’s quite humbling to realize that our kids now have permanent memorials here in Davis (3 years ago the Art Center dedicated a little gazebo called “David’s place.”)
It’s been a busy couple of years for me. One of the “windows” I found opened after Paul’s death led to singer/songwriter Steve Schalchlin. Steve is living with AIDS and in 1996, together with his partner of 15 years, Jim Brochu, wrote a musical called The Last Session ("TLS"), which won awards in NY and in Los Angeles. We saw the musical the month after Paul died, I met Steve around that time, and was so impressed with him that I became his volunteer publicist. In this capacity, I have seen TLS in Los Angeles, Denver, and Baltimore. More importantly, I have worked with Steve’s one-man show, Living in the Bonus Round, where he sings for high school and college groups as well as medical professionals, explaining the reality of living with AIDS, a very emotional, personal and non-preachy evening of theatre. It’s been a most rewarding experience and has introduced me not only to Steve, but also to a host of people in his circle who are some of the warmest, most caring human beings I’ve ever met. They range from teenagers as young as 15 to old folk like me--men and women, gay and straight, HIV+ and not, Christian, Jewish, atheist. An amazing assortment of folk. Most recently I shared a suite at Stanford’s Faculty Club with Steve for 3 days while he was wined and dined as the Jonathan L King Lecturer for the year 2000. It was a pretty amazing experience. (Being around Steve has led to all sorts of interesting experiences, including a March on Washington in May, where I got to shake Tipper Gore’s hand).
In addition to being the new theatre critic for the local newspaper, I’m also volunteering now for Breaking Barriers, a social service outreach organization that helps people living with HIV and AIDS. I drive clients to doctors’ appointments and provide emotional support for two women. It’s been so long since I had a gay client that I’m beginning to think that most of Sacramento’s infected population is young, straight, and female.I have also participated in several Gay Pride events with PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays), the highlight of which was marching in the Gay Pride Day parade in San Francisco, an incredible afternoon.
There is a hole in our lives with the loss of our sons. But God has been good. He has given us much which, while not quite “replacing” our children, has at least opened our eyes to new things and given us the opportunity to make our own difference in the world. Holidays will always be difficult around here. They have always been so “family oriented” that the loss of Paul and David is felt keenly. But the memories are sweet and help to warm us on cold nights.
Hug those you love. Never miss a chance to say “I love you,” or to mend a broken fence. Never let fear cause you to pass up a chance to experience something special in your life. All we can count on is today. Make the most of it. And if God closes a door for you, may you always have windows available.
The Sykes Family
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