“Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.” —Larry Lorenzoni
Work, for my dad, started early—in life and in the day. He grew up on a hog farm in Lewisburg, Ohio. He helped with the hard work of the farm, and my grandparents paid him and his siblings for the work that they did. He went to college, taught, got a master’s degree and taught some more. He was good at his work, but he never let it define him. Case in point: In 1982, he started working for McGraw-Hill Book Company. I have postcards from the early 80s from places like New York City—places my dad traveled for work. I remember going to the airport with him, getting on his plane and stepping into the cockpit. I remember a pilot giving me my own pilot wings. I remember watching his plane leave the airport and I remember the excitement of postcards in the mail. I don’t know if I simply associate Harry Chapin’s “The Cat’s in the Cradle” with my dad’s decision to leave his district manager job or if the song truly influenced him but he did leave it after three years. And most of his career, from 1985 to 2013, was spent with Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development, most recently as Vice President of Business Operations. He did a lot of good there.
In June, he retired.
We attended a banquet for all the Great Oaks retirees late this spring. His speech made me teary.
And then in June, Kyle from San Francisco, and Katy, Tom and Colleen from North Carolina, came to town to celebrate.
These were some of the best summer days and nights.
We celebrated many things that week. We had dinner at A Tavola followed by cake and gifts at our house to celebrate Father’s Day and my mom’s birthday.
Our immediate family toasted and gifted my dad after dinner at Troy’s Cafe. My mom gave him two engraved bricks that both say “But it’s Baseball! Gary Gebhart”—one’s at home, the other, at Great American Ball Park.
For weeks beforehand my mom gathered one word from people who know my dad—one word that describes him. She then made The List.
Carnac the Magnificent
The next day family, friends and colleagues attended a party at my parents’ house.
My dad and brother-in-law spent days preparing Detling Field for a ballgame. We played a bit but then …
Still, an enjoyable day, complete with Eli’s BBQ sandwiches for all.
Now my parents are both retired. My dad still works, but it’s work of his choosing. He gardens. He works in the yard. He works out. He attends services at First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati. He volunteers at the Freestore Foodbank. He tutors a kindergartener once a week at South Avondale Elementary School. Every week he and my mom go on a date—Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Findley Market, a concert in a coffee shop. Next weekend they’re going to Colonial Williamsburg to see the Threads of Feeling exhibit with my grandma and my sister and her family. They went to Hawaii.
My dad stopped by the other day, after tutoring, just to hang out, to play tickle monster with the kids, to be beat in Bingo. This time for him is so incredibly well-deserved. And I’m just so thankful to be a part of it.
“Don’t simply retire from something; have something to retire to.” —Harry Emerson Fosdick
In February I spent a long weekend visiting my brother, Kyle, in San Francisco.
He’s a transportation planner with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. After I landed, I took public transit (of course) and met him at work. Above is the view from the floor he works on.
That night we went to Oakland for a Shabbat dinner (my first) at Steve and Sierra’s, longtime friends of Kyle. We sat at a long wooden table that Steve built by hand, under strings of white lights, eating Steve and Sierra’s most delicious food, drinking good wine with the most interesting people while Joni Mitchell played in the background. It was, basically, my ideal dinner party.
The view from Kyle’s deck the next morning.
It is so easy to visit a city Kyle lives in. He seemingly knows everything. Like where we should get pastries (Arizmendi Bakery).
And where we should get coffee (Philz Coffee).
He explores, constantly.
After breakfast, we hiked Bernal Hill. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities and I’ve been several times. It’s nice to visit a place and not feel obligated to do all things touristy and instead, spend a morning discovering a treat such as this.
Next up, a farmer’s market to nibble on samples of oranges and nuts.
beauty found while walking the streets
Kyle at one of his favorite burrito joints. (He was ignoring the fact that I was taking his picture. Again.)
826 Valencia, a nonprofit founded by author Dave Eggers, dedicated to supporting students with their writing skills—it’s right down the street from where Kyle lives, and I’ve long loved its mission. Oh to be able to take my kids to writing workshops at a place such as this! Bonus: the storefront is a pirate supply store. My kids made out well.
Kyle and I had separated at this point. He had gone back to work to get his bike. I, of course, got lost. But along the way I passed the gorgeous Women’s Building, which I wanted to see anyhow.
Finally, after several phone calls to Kyle, I found his place (he shares the third floor with two roommates).
Kyle bikes. A lot. When living in Brooklyn, he regularly biked to Manhattan for work. Biking with him is something I’ve always wanted to do. But I’ve also always been nervous. I haven’t biked in years (transporting three kids while on a bike isn’t easy). I’ve never biked in traffic. But he had a bike for me. And a helmet. And he promised to go slow and watch out for me (which he oh-so-patiently did). I was a bit of disaster at first, but only got laughed at by bystanders twice. And then, I loved it. We biked for miles through the city and all the way through Golden Gate Park, ending at Ocean Park.
A coffee break (I like a travel companion who likes coffee).
That night we had south Indian.
The next morning our aunt Janeil who lives in Sacramento picked us up and we drove to Half Moon Bay for whale watching with the Oceanic Society. It was so great to see her.
We boarded our boat, Salty Lady.
And Kyle and I got so, incredibly, seasick.
(Janeil fared much better.)
I managed to take a picture of some otters on a buoy while gripping a rail on the boat and singing “Alouette” softly to myself over and over in an attempt to not throw up (I don’t know why that song, in particular, helped, but it did).
That night Kyle and I had dinner at Dante’s Weird Fish. The food was good. Really good. The conversation was good. Really good. It was a perfect endcap to a great trip.
The next morning I said goodbye to Kyle, as he had to go to work. He suggested I try Tartine Bakery. It resulted in, what I’m pretty sure was, my first use of “OMG” on Facebook. I now understand the line.
Then, I wandered.
I took transit back to the airport. While waiting for BART, I saw a bouquet of white roses lying on the tracks. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Who did they belong to? Why were they thrown? What love fell apart because of them? So I took a picture. Self-conscious, I looked around me. The guy standing next to me was taking a picture of the same bouquet with his cell phone, too.
I love this city.
And then, I flew home.
Thank you, Kyle, for a most lovely trip. And thank you, Andy and Mom, for help with the kids therefore allowing it to happen.
“San Francisco has only one drawback—’tis hard to leave.” —Rudyard Kipling
Finding the perfect tree at Burlington Tree Farm.
Decorating the tree.
Sophie’s handmade Christmas present to us, from preschool (she couldn’t wait until Christmas to give it to us).
A late night writing Christmas postcards.
Christmas at Great Grandma Gebhart’s house + handmade train whistles from my uncle Skip.
Pop Pop’s lap overflowing with grandkids.
James and Owen with their new cars from Great Grandma.
Autumn and Amanda
James’s new Jake the Pirate set from my aunt Ellen and uncle Skip (he loved it).
Aunt Katy and sleepy Colleen
Uncle Kyle and (Great) Uncle Skip
Autumn and her mom, Lisa
Sophie getting some puzzle help from Autumn.
Andy and my uncle Roger in the kitchen.
Christmas at my grandma’s farm, a tradition I’ve long loved.
Nini making pomegranate cosmopolitans.
Nini, Katy and me!
(They were delicious.)
Nini reading Eve Bunting’s Night Tree to the grandkids.
A Christmas gift for the birds—bagels covered in peanut butter and bird seed.
Hanging our gifts on the pine tree.
Mom and Dad (Nini and Pop Pop)
Writing letters to Santa.
Christmas around the house.
Sophie’s preschool Christmas gift to us.
The decorated mantel—Sophie wasn’t pleased with it so she added the ribbon and, if you look close, handmade snowmen hanging from it (of course, I left it).
A Christmas Eve viewing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Andy reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
James and Owen, clearly ready for bed.
More Christmas around the house.
Letters, cookies, milk for Santa, and lots of carrots for the reindeer.
Christmas Eve, right before bed = joy.
The walk down the stairs.
Christmas day at my parents’ house.
Colleen and Sophie
Colleen’s handmade hand-print wreath (with the help of Nini) to Uncle Tom and Aunt Katy.
Uncle Kyle and Sophie
My mom made beautiful teddy bears for each of the grandkids. They loved them.
The BonBonerie Christmas cookies.
Sophie trying out her new skates …
in my parents completely reorganized, repainted basement.
Christmas around my parents’ house.
Christmas dinner and paper crowns.
James, Owen, Sophie and Colleen
The teddy bears my mom made …
Gear. So. much. gear. (But of course, no boots. We hadn’t bought them yet.)
The kids’ first snowfall of the season—and their first snowman!
Making the traditional Uhl Family Christmas Cookies with Grandma and Paw Paw.
Owen taking a TV break from making cookies.
Christmas Eve w/ Grandma and Paw Paw.
Sophie opening her very special craft box, which Grandma put together.
Paw Paw and Grandma
Early morning sun.
Grandma made a craft box for all three kids—it’s huge and organized and labeled and filled with so many wonderful things—all three children play with it daily (thank you).
Thomas the Train tracks = love.
“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: The presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” —Burton Hillis
I only get to see my brother Kyle a couple times a year. He lives in San Francisco where he’s a transportation planner with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. He was in town for the holidays. As a child, it never occurred to me that someday, the chance for me and my siblings to all be together would be something special rather than ordinary. Sometimes I ache for the ordinary. He’s gone again, as is my sister and her family, as is what happens when holidays end.
This May he graduated from Rutgers University after earning a Master of City and Regional Planning, and Transportation Policy and Planning degree. My parents gifted my sister, Katy, and I plane tickets so that we could see him graduate.
all dressed up
the quilted map wall hanging my mom made for Kyle
Kyle and his grad school friends
me, Mom and Katy
Kyle and Christine
Rutgers in the spring
walking the High Line in NYC on Mother’s Day
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Kyle misses New York City—we miss visiting him there. But San Francisco isn’t too shabby. Today I booked a plane ticket to visit him on the other coast, over a long weekend in February.
I can’t wait.
“A sibling may be the keeper of one’s identity, the only person with the keys to one’s unfettered, more fundamental self.” —Marian Sandmaier
We celebrated Kyle’s birthday when he was in town for Thanksgiving (someday, hopefully before February, I will be caught up with this blog—I have yet to bombard you with Christmas pictures). We watched the OSU vs. Michigan game, and had lunch and (vegan) chocolate cake and pudding. The cake sort of crumbled but was really good. The boys loved it. I mean, they love dessert. But they devoured this. Which was awesome because one of the main ingredients in the pudding, for example, was avocado. I must get the recipe.
The day was nice. It involved lots of good food, candles in crumbled cake in a bowl, presents, hugs, turns playing hairstylist, a color icing experiment with Nini, football and family.
Happy birthday, Kyle.
“A brother is a friend given by Nature.” —Jean Baptiste Legouve