the prodigal?

I love that we can laugh at what once caused conflict.

My nephew Eric, son of my brother Brian and my sister-in-law Bobbie, has grown a beard. It has gotten a bit out of hand in the minds of many family members. That includes his daughter Teaghan and me. At a recent Saturday morning breakfast Eric was describing how he had gotten his beard trimmed and the reaction was, “You did? We can’t tell.”

Prodigal SonI told Eric that when I was in college before coming home for a break I would go to the barbershop in the Claremont village and get my hair trimmed. I would then head home and when my dad saw me he would say, “Why don’t you get a haircut?” Dad just grinned when I told the story. Eric replied, “We’re the black sheep.”

Black sheep? Me?

I was the one who managed my paper route on my own. Brian needed Dad’s help. I was responsible and went to college. I lived on my own and supported myself. Brian stayed at home for a long time, with different jobs and taking various community college courses. He was for the most part involved in public safety in various forms, but eventually ended up with a full-time career path job with what is now called CalFire.

But maybe I was the black sheep. Maybe I was the prodigal son.

I left for college in the fall after graduating high school. I never lived at home full-time after that. Two years after graduating from college I left the state and moved to South Texas, followed by Oklahoma City, and then the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. It would be forty-one years before I returned. Brian was the loyal son who stayed at home. He supported my mother through her long illness and was fully there for my dad after her death. I was engaged in riotous living (you might say) in the Bay Area. I never had a job feeding pigs. However, it was only after the company I had worked for sixteen plus years told me that they didn’t love me anymore (though they did make me a retiree) that I returned home.

Viewed that way, I was indeed the prodigal and Brian was the faithful son.

Tasha at thirteen

Tasha had a birthday today. She is thirteen.

TashaWe don’t know that to be the case. (Apologies to those of you who have seen me tell this story so many times before.) We brought her home from the shelter on November 1, All Saints’ Day, 2005. We immediately made an appointment with our vet who told us that she thought Tasha was about a year and a half. Given that, we decided to designate her birthday as May 1, my late, beloved Grandma Monaghan’s birthday. So May 1, 2006 we said she was two. That means that today she is thirteen by our calculations.

Tasha is a very young, healthy thirteen. She is busy, active, and happy. She has a lot of energy. She demands her walks twice a day and insists that we stick to our routine. If it’s 6:30 pm, she reminds me that it is time for me to go into the kitchen and fix dinner. She still jumps up on our bed in the evening.

I think that Tasha may have understood one of the conversations that Terry and I were having about her age. Last Monday she casually trotted into the bedroom with something in her mouth and nonchalantly dropped it on the floor. It was a newly dead mouse. Our fearless hunter still!

We’re delighted that Tasha is doing so well and is such an integral part of our lives.

eleven years with Tasha

It was eleven years ago today that Terry and I brought Tasha home from the shelter. At the time the vet said that she was about a year and-a-half old. That would make her twelve and-a-half now. You would never know it.

TashaTasha is as active as ever. She goes dashing through our great room and leaps in and out of her dog door. She can jump up on the bed as easily as ever. She is insistent on her routine. She has to have her two walks a day, and does her best to keep us to our routine. If I don’t go into the kitchen around 6:30 pm to start dinner she shadows me to try to get me in there. She has to be fed her wet food at 7:00 am when the light goes on, and her dry an hour later. She has to have to have her afternoon dry at 5:20 pm after the weather on TV.

She is an amazing, marvelous part of the family.



our amazing child

I wrote at the beginning of May that our beagle-border terrier mix Tasha had Tasha2016turned twelve on 1 May. That was based on a reasonably logical calculation that you can read about here.

Last week Terry took Tasha in for her annual checkup. The vet was amazed that Tasha was twelve. Terry said that she had to look twice at her chart to confirm that. Tasha had gained a pound and-a-half since a year ago, but as the vet felt her she was impressed that it was all muscle. She only has one small spot of fat.GreatRoom Tasha does get a lot of exercise in our one-story house. She got plenty of exercise in our two-story house in Gilroy, but being in a single story house here, she can build up an amazing head of steam as she tears through the great room. And blast through the great room she does.

We’re so delighted to have such a healthy, active, loving child.

wasn’t it yesterday when he was small?

I have known our nephew Race since he was an infant. He was born in September and Terry and I got (back)

Race Sr., happy grandmother Julie, and Race Jr.

Race Sr., happy grandmother Julie, and Race Jr.

together the following March. That was 1991. I made frequent visits to Southern California to see Terry in Anaheim, and we would often go to her parents’ house in Ontario where Terry’s sister Julie lived with her son the young Race.

Terry moved up to the Bay Area with me, and Julie eventually found her own condo in San Diego and then a larger place in El Cajon. Race grew up and attended high school. I think the last time I saw Race was when he graduated from high school. At the ceremony we sat near his girlfriend Brigida, who is now his wife.

Race attended the Naval preparatory academy and then

Mom, Dad, and Race Jr.

Mom, Dad, and Race Jr.

Annapolis. He struggled with academics and was half a grade point shy of being allowed to return for his senior year. He became an enlisted man and served on the USS Peleliu. When that ship was decommissioned he was transferred to the new aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan, which was heading out to Japan.

In the midst of all of this he and Brigida got married, and Race Jr. arrived about ten months later. Terry flew down for the wedding. I stayed home as a matter of financial prudence, as I had been laid off by that time.

Now we’re here in Southern California and Race recently returned home. He had a botched hernia surgery at the

Terry and Race Jr.

Terry and Race Jr.

preparatory academy and has fought with a lot of pain ever since. So he’s on light duty as the Navy considers the path forward for him. But he is home with his wife and son, and that is a wonderful thing. Julie is pretty happy about that too.

Terry and I were delighted, therefore, when Julie invited us and her friend Doug to lunch in El Cajon with Race, Race Jr., and Brigida on Sunday. Race is amazingly mature and the two of them are great parents. Terry has seen Race Jr. before, but this was my first time seeing him.

We had a delightful time.

Tasha at 12

Yesterday, 1 May, was Tasha’s birthday. Tasha, you likely know, is our beagle-border terrier mix and our only child. We don’t know that it is actually her birthday, but we have designated it as her birthday.

Tasha2016Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that calculation. For those of you who don’t, it works like this. We brought Tasha home from the shelter on 1 November, All Saints’ Day. We took her to our vet, and she said that Tasha looked like she was about a year-and-a-half. As it happened 1 May, exactly six months later,  was the birthday of my late, beloved Grandma Monaghan. So in honor of Grandma and to have an easy way to calculate full years for Tasha, we designated that day as her birthday. It was 1 November 2005 that we brought Tasha home, so yesterday she was 12.

You wouldn’t know it. She is as busy and active as ever. She insists on her walks and on her daily routine. She is, probably, more vocal and more demanding than when she was younger. But she is well, healthy, and active. She takes a thyroid medication, but that’s it.

She is an integral part of both of our lives.

remembering Michael Barlow

The world lost one of its lights on Saturday with the passing of a man named Michael Barlow.

Mike was married to Anita, who was my first wife Ruth’s cousin. He gained a certain amount of notoriety in the 1980’s when, as the chief negotiator for the teacher’s union in the Oklahoma City school district, he took the teachers out on strike. He later left the union and went to work for the school district as their lead negotiator.

But I knew him on a personal level. Ruth, who, you will recall, was Jewish, and Anita were very close, and we visited their house a number of times. The fact that I was not Jewish did not matter to them, and they were very gracious and welcoming. When Ruth and I got married, her mother, Leah, not only refused to come to the wedding but disowned her. Leah and Ruth’s Aunt Dorothy were very close, so Dorothy did not feel that she could come to the wedding. But she did bake a challah loaf and sent it with Mike and Anita who were enthusiastically present.

I always enjoyed the time we spent with Mike and Anita. We did a Passover Seder with them and their two sons one year.

When Ruth was in the hospital and we knew what the likely outcome of her ruptured brain aneurysm was going to be, I asked Anita to come out to help me deal with Leah, with whom I had reconciled, but who was still a basket case (understandably). Anita graciously flew out from Oklahoma City to San Jose and made things a whole lot easier for me. I stayed at Mike and Anita’s house when I flew back to Oklahoma City for Ruth’s funeral.

I knew Mike as a large, robust persona. I knew he had had some health issues, though I don’t know the details. In August Terry and I attended the wedding of Ruth’s daughter Debbie in San Diego. Mike and Anita were there, and Debbie thoughtfully seated us together. Mike was by then a small, gentle, quiet person with a gray beard, but was as kind and gracious and ever.

I was privileged to have known him, and I will miss him.

Michael Barlow, Alav Ha-shalom.