Sunday, June 18, 2023

Dear Dad (2023)

Dear Dad,

So much to tell you about this year!

First, some general updates on the kids, which is the thing I most miss being able to talk to you about. 

I can't believe when you died they were only 13, 11, and 8. That was half Quinn's life ago at this point. There is such a world of difference between those ages, and 21, 19, and 16. I mean, could you have imagined Mona with a driver's license? She's still the only kid who has one, although Quinn is doing a good job in driver's ed and should have no trouble passing her test when she's ready. We need to bug Aden about finally taking her test again, even though she's not keen on driving. Mona seems to like it, and Quinn is getting more comfortable behind the wheel. 

Anyway, Aden loves her college, but she's been struggling. I think we missed catching that she likely had ADHD and anxiety issues when she was growing up, and now there are bigger complications with that at a college level. It's so hard to know sometimes what things are typical kid problems, and what things run deeper. All kids have bouts of laziness and bad time management, but how are you supposed to tell that from something parenting alone can't correct? We're working on some things with a therapist over summer to see if we can get her to a more confident place come fall. Aden is so talented and kind and lovely... It hurts to watch her not be able to do the things she wants to do. Regardless, she's managed to grow up quite a bit in her couple of years away at school. 

I'm glad Aden's home this summer. Although she's living in the downstairs nook, since Mona has kind of taken over their whole room. I know for Aden that home does not feel the same as it used to. That's such an odd transition, isn't it? When I visit Detroit, the house is still home, but there's really nothing there that's mine now. And yet, when I lie in the guest bed in my old space, I still recognize the patterns on the wooden door and the way the light shifts in the room. Somehow that's enough to feel like I belong.

Aden's been doing some nice print work. A lot of art schools have apparently abandoned print making, but not Stout. She does some adorable animation. The best news recently was that apparently one of the big video game design studios is now in Madison, which would be nicer for an eventual job than maybe all the way out in California. (At least for her mom.) She's hoping to spend time with friends up at the cottage before going back to school. Her new housing assignment will include a real kitchen and a private room, and she's looking forward to cooking again, and more privacy. She's playing a lot of a game called Tears of the Kingdom. She still has the bluest eyes you've ever seen.

Things for Mona have begun to turn in a good direction! She's been frustrated with her unfruitful job searches and was feeling stuck, but she's now on track to apprentice with the new tattoo shop opening across the street from the violin store soon. She had a great interview, they loved her work, and she's prepared to put in the hours and effort to learn those new skills. Mona will also be moving into the Airbnb space above the shop, so that will be a short commute. I think it's a good fit. She'll get to create art that's personal to people that they literally carry around with them everywhere, and make a good enough living to still pursue other avenues with her art as she likes. I'm excited for her.

The biggest adjustment to her moving out may be less of not having her around (since I'm sure she'll still come to the house and hang out from time to time), but more of the bird being gone! I can't picture that corner of the dining room without Keiko. He's so loud! And present. And lately he's been hanging out in a tinier cage next to the TV so as we watch things, he watches us. (And tells us that he's an adorable Keiko bird.) You never got to meet Keiko, but you'd have liked him. I wonder if seeing him would have reminded you of stories of your own birds that maybe you hadn't told us before.

Mona's sewing some beautiful things lately. Things far more intricate and professional looking than I ever came up with. We got her a really nice straight stitch machine. Apparently the better the machine, the fewer things it does, and this one does straight stitching really fast and well. I think what sold her on it was the extra arm that you can use to lift the sewing foot with either your elbow or your knee, so you can keep your hands on your work by the needle to spin it, etc. Saves Mona a ton of time. She's got an Etsy shop, and she works diligently to fill orders. You'd be as proud as I am of how hard she works. I'm already looking forward to updating you next year on how it all goes.

Quinn is good! She is SO relaxed and happy compared to a year ago. Remember how reserved she was, even back at 8? Like, not so much shy (which she is), but like she had her guard up a little all the time. Now that she is able to be herself in the world, she still spends a lot of time in her room and she'll never be an extrovert, but she moves differently, with a grace that wasn't there before. It's like she can breathe. I love it.

It's a scary time for trans-people right now, particularly kids, but so far Quinn's had nothing but support. I have friends in states that aren't so lucky. I'm grateful for her school and her doctor, and that even the people at the social security office who helped get her gender marker changed were happy to help.

She's doing well in all her classes (particularly Spanish), she continues with piano in a sluggish way but insists she doesn't want to quit, and she wishes she weren't so tall but otherwise is just quietly being Quinn. She's in charge of having dinner on the table at 6:00 when I get home from work four nights a week (which she does with the aid of a Hello Fresh box).

My favorite thing with Quinn is that during the school year, I get to straighten her hair every Sunday night. She has lovely waves in her hair, so of course she wants them gone. I miss the physical contact you have with smaller children that evaporates when you have teens. Getting to put on a movie and play with Quinn's hair for about 90 minutes while we watch something together is something I look forward to each week.

Speaking of missing smaller children, we got ourselves a baby-sized dog! I needed her. I really craved having something to scoop up who was excited to see me in a way that doesn't happen when your children are bigger. Ian was a holdout on the idea of a new dog after Chipper died, and periodically I'd ask him if I could start looking, and he wasn't ready. But then Quinn said she wanted a dog, and of course Ian relented. Now we have our little Chihuahua-rat terrier mix, Domino. You would love her. Everyone loves Domino. And this dog would have happily let you pet her all you wanted. Mona and I even flew with her to New York where we stayed with Arno and Deepanjana, and by the end of the trip she was doing the subways like a local dog. I got some nice pictures of her by the Nick Cave mosaics in one of the stations. (You'd have liked those, along with the Chuck Close ones.)

Arno and Deepanjana are doing the best I've ever seen them. Their lives are more than I can adequately describe, but they are thriving. And Ellora got into her dream school! She loves Berkeley, and is currently doing work in Madagascar. The newly expanded apartment is honestly the nicest place in New York as far as I'm concerned. Crazy that after Ellora moved away that they finally have extra space and a second bathroom.

Barrett and Dosha are doing great, too. Barrett's soon-to-be-published book is so good! It's filled with Mom's drawings, and he even found a way to include a picture of my viola. I don't know if that's the instrument I would have wanted to represent me in a published book, but that instrument has cochineal in the varnish which is what he needed. (I just remind myself that people interested in cultural entomology are not going to be scrutinizing my lutherie skills the way violin makers would, so it will be fine. But that's the viola I made for myself when Ian was deployed, and the only time I had to carve was after midnight and between newborn feedings so its claim to fame is that it exists at all.)

Rivyn is amazing. It just hit me that he's the age now that Quinn was when you died. That's kind of mind boggling. That little baby you got to hold briefly in those last few days at home has grown up to be imaginative and funny and is such a delight. He cycles among several interests and is better read at this point than most of the adults I know. I wonder how much of Barrett you'd see in him and what elements would be completely new.

Ian is well, but he's still adjusting to the passing of his mom. It's been a year. He's still undecided about what to do with the house out in Portland. I get it. After grandma died, I realized I couldn't drive by her old house without feeling a lot of pain. There's something deeply awful about being severed from a place that was once a close part of you and your story. I don't know if once Ian lets go of his childhood home if that's the last we'll see of it. I don't know if when someday we have to let the house in Pleasant Ridge go if I'll ever see it again, or if that whole neighborhood will just be gone from my life. It's a jarring, unpleasant thought. I don't know if there's a way for Ian to resolve any of that in his situation that doesn't hurt, so in the meantime it just gets postponed. Grief is hard. Grief is persistent. 

Mom's done a lot of traveling this year. She spent a few weeks in India and had an incredibly nice time, then she and I got to travel to Austria! What an amazing trip. She got to hear my mandolin orchestra perform in Graz, and in Salzburg. I made her watch The Sound of Music before we left because we were in some of the places that appeared in the movie. Somehow Mom had gotten to this point in life and not seen it before. I feel like you must have watched that movie, right? I saw it as a kid, so someone must have been there. (I guess this goes on the list of questions that it's too late to ask.) Mom's amazing. Her work is more beautiful than ever, she's busy. She misses you, of course, but is doing okay. Still the best cook ever. Every time she serves us a meal I think about asking you in that book of questions what your favorite food was, and you wrote "anything Karen makes."

I'm doing okay. I'm frustrated (as usual) with my lack of progress on book stuff, but will make time soon (I hope) to sort it out. The store is really busy, and I need to make time to work on the commissioned instruments on my bench. My health is fine, which I don't take for granted, and we have what we need.

I miss calling you on Mondays. I miss curling up with you to try and help with your crossword puzzles. (I know I was never any help, but occasionally there was a Star Trek clue that made me feel useful.)

Hey, I'm not crying this year as I type this. Is that some kind of progress? I don't know. It's probably good that I can think of you in a similar way to how I think of people who are still here, and not focus almost solely on your being gone. But I really really miss you. What I wouldn't give for one more hug from my dad this Father's Day. You gave great hugs.

I love you, Dad.