November 2011

Yo, Mas (sitting) and Ichi Ito

I got the news this week that my Uncle Yo had passed away. He was the youngest of the three Ito brothers, of whom my dad was the middle. My Dad died in 2000, and my Uncle Ichi a few years after that. Uncle Yo had been hanging in there, the last of his generation and family, and even though I hadn’t seen him in many years, it gave me great comfort to know he was still there.

Both of my father’s parents died before I was born, so I never knew my paternal grandparents. But I’d heard stories about them – about my blind grandfather, once a carpenter and woodcrafter, who re-shaped a miniature leaning tower of Pisa that my uncle had brought back from Italy during World War II. He could feel it, and he knew that something was wrong, so he fixed it so that it stood straight.

I asked my father once, during one of the ubiquitous and dreaded family tree assignments, the names of his grandparents back in Japan. He admitted with great remorse that he really didn’t know, that his parents never spoke of them and that there was really no record.

We had a small family. My uncle Ichi had had kids way before I was born, so they were adults when I came on the scene. Uncle Yo and Aunt Mary never had kids. We always had Thanksgiving at Uncle Ichi’s and Aunt Florence’s house, and pre-Christmas dinner at Aunt Mary and Uncle Yo’s. Their house was always immaculate (this is what happens when you have no kids!) and elegant.

My Uncle Yo was a quiet guy and I can’t say we were “close” but I was glad we were related anyway. He and my aunt owned a little jewelry store in the Pan Am building in New York City, and it always gave me an enormous thrill to visit them there. I remember my uncle sitting on a stool, wearing a special jeweler’s monocle, and he would be setting a diamond into a ring or tinkering with the insides of a watch. They always gave me a little piece of jewelry for my birthday – a heart shaped locked or a delicate little watch or a bracelet with my name engraved into it. Visiting them made me feel grownup and special, and the fact that it was in the famous PAN AM building (is this why I am such a sucker for the not so good TV series?) just heightened it all. They worked in the big city, in an important building, in a JEWELRY store. I mean, come on. I was enraptured.

My aunt Mary was the closest I had to a “buddy aunt.” She sat with me at family gatherings and colored or drew with me, shading each apple with three or four crayon colors, bringing them to life.  I heard she’s thinking of going up to her family in Canada, where she came from when she met my uncle after the war.

I guess this is what it feels like when people in your family, who were once larger than life, the grownups, start peeling away and then guess what? We’re the grownups now. Our kids are even turning into grownups. It’s sobering and strange and just one of those huge doses of reality that just hit you. Now I’m the grownup making the stuffing for the turkey and cooking the gravy and just, you know, doing it all, the way the grownups did for so long when I was growing up. So many of them are gone now.

The Ito brothers. Are they “together” now? I don’t know what I believe about that. I kind of hope they are, and with their younger sister Kiyo, who died as a college student before I was born, and whom I was named after (middle name).

Image by Lasse C via Flickr

No, not website hosting. People hosting.

Ever since we’ve been together, my spouse and I have really enjoyed having people visit or live with us. I mean we’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been one of the landmarks of our life together. We had a family who stayed with us for over five years, and we’ve also had houseguests who’ve stayed for a month or three. It just makes us happy, to have other people around. It broadens our lives and I think it makes us kinder, friendlier people. When it’s “just us,” we tend to get grumpier and more impatient. But we put on our company selves for company, and the nice stuff leaks back into the family.

Right now our elder daughter is being hosted by a family in Costa Rica. They are housing her and feeding her and taking care of her. I have lived with many a host family while studying Spanish in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and they have all been wonderful to us. Now it’s her turn to go out there.

So when we got an email this week asking our crew team if people could host the US National Rowing team (that’s the OLYMPIC rowing team!), I got so excited. A new guest! An Olympic rower! Are you KIDDING? We signed up right away.

Our new guest is six foot eight and a wonderful guy. And he won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics. How cool is that?!?  He’s staying until January.

I’ve seen people grousing about having houseguests, especially around the holidays, but I really kind of love them. Of course it helps to have extra room to put them in. It might be different if I was tripping over them every five minutes. But for us, it gets kinda lonely when it’s “just us.”

So I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping this blog going.. sorry! but as I was going through my iPhoto pictures, I thought about doing a photo log like I’ve seen other bloggers do. Here’s a little recap of what’s been happening this past month.

October 1: Stories of the Body retreat at Santa Sabina

writing and moving at Santa Sabina

October 4: swim practice at the Richmond Plunge

Oct 8: video shoot on the Golden Gate Bridge!

I was so excited to be chosen by the Diabetes Hands Foundation to represent healthy active diabetic people doing the Big Blue Test! They took video of us running on the Golden Gate Bridge. You can see the finished product here – SO awesome!

Oct 10: 3 generations together again!

my girl turned 21 the day she came home from her travels

Oct 15: mini practice triathlon

birthday party with wishing rings on the candles

my baby is grown up

college tours with younger daughter

we loved the food truck pods in Portland!

Oct 23: French Pastry baking class!

the class was a Team in Training fundraiser. GO TEAM!

Oct 25: Occupy Oakland torn down across from my office building

Oct 27: Jet-setting Junior is at SFO, taking off for Peru & Costa RIca

Oct 28: Last chance workout: conquering open water fear at Lake Temescal with the awesome sports psychologist

Posterior tibialis tendonitis: trying to keep my cool while doing paperwork

That was October. A total whirlwind of workouts and busy daughters.

I thought about doing NaNoWriMo for about five minutes this year. I miss writing something awful. But.. it’s not my year for it. 2012! YES!