Christmas Letter -- the On-Line Version!!
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December 2000

Dear Friends,

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.

Jeri is still enjoying Berklee School of Music in Boston. She won three monetary awards this year and, with her job in the school’s book store, teaching saxophone to junior high school students, various theatre design and tech jobs, and music gigs, she continues to support herself while she hones her craft. She was able to fly out and be here for our Family Reunion in August.
Ned continues as producer of the morning show on The Arrow (93.7 FM Sacramento), and is the overnight DJ, a job which he records in the morning and some engineer plays at night. Marta continues working on special events for a company affiliated with a competing radio station. She had a scare this year when she developed bacterial meningitis, but she seems to have survived it just fine.

Where Ned records his show

Tom moved from his job with Santa Barbara Bank and Trust and now works for a computer software company, where, among other things, he travels around the country, installing and training folks to use data base software that tracks employee benefits for small corporations.

In June of this year, he and his sweetie, Laurel, moved into an apartment together. She’s a keeper and we are very pleased.

As usual, Tom threw himself a big barbecue to celebrate his birthday in July. Most of the family was there.

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.

"Thelma and Louise" on the road

A big chunk of time in the early fall was spent with an Internet friend, Peggy, who came from Australia to spend six weeks with us. She and I had corresponded by e-mail and live chats daily for about a year and a half but had never met. We wondered how we would get along for six weeks. The answer was: fabulously. We traveled up and down the west coast, as far north as Seattle, and as far south as San Diego. When her vacation ended, we had a lifelong relationship that I value very highly. It was the most significant event of my year.

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
Walt - Bev - Jeri - Ned - Marta - Tom - Laurel - and, in absentia, Paul and David

I'd love to have you visit my on-line journal (which I update every day)