Sunday, February 03, 2019


I’ve never been so conflicted about choosing a subject for a post. As a matter of fact, I’ve written three entries so far and have another two on deck. My lack of commitment stems from, well, my inability to commit, the fact that there’s no photograph to prompt me and that I’m basically ADHD. The contenders are stories from friends, parenting missteps, things that move us and realizing you’re old. Give me four minutes and I’ll come up with four more.

Early in the week, prompted by the oral history of a friend, I started a vignette that might launch a series called Some Story. “Everybody has a story” I often say. Everybody does in fact have an important history even if they don’t think they do. This nascent series would tell those stories. Even if I don’t go with it this time it will happen sooner or later. Interviews will play a key role in the series.

Often the “story” is about a course altering experience in our own lives and sometimes it’s about a third party, usually a family member, whose path and condition casts a shadow over our own existence. It seems like everybody has a someone in their life who shades their days with dread. Any number of friends have a brother, sister, son or daughter flailing against mental illness or addiction. Each has plunged headlong into the Victim-Perpetrator-Rescuer tar baby before choosing self over the circle of co-dependence that never ends.

And all of us has had a transformative experience which defines who we become. I had several but being disowned by my mother at 21 was numero uno. Being fired from half my jobs and almost going bankrupt are close behind. Ultimately, it’s how we surmount the tough lessons that is our measure.

Earlier this week I began writing the inspirational story told to me by the aforementioned friend. It was destined for this post but as much as I changed the names and locations it still seems like a betrayal to share it. I can see that this will be problematic going forward. I really want to tell these stories. Until I figure how to tell these personal tales safely here’s this:

It’s a wonder our kids survived our missteps as parents. Some of ours were so egregious they beg reality.

Garrett and Kim in South Pasadena

There was the time in the mid-seventies when we took a canoe trip in Northern Maine. That entailed paddling our Mohawk canoe across Lake Repogenus to a tiny island where we camped for two nights. Garrett was seven and Kim was thirteen. Our stay on the 50 yard by 20 yard speck was idyllic. We had plenty of stores, a stove, tent, sleeping bags and fishing rods. We were geared up for almost anything. We swam in a warm July water, toasted marshmallows over an open fire and slept to the sound of crickets and the lake lapping at our private beach. It was a quintessential New England interlude.

On the day we left the island things went seriously south. We were feckless city slickers. We lazed around till after lunch. That was a major mistake. By midafternoon the chop on Repogenus had grown to 3-foot swells. That’s what happens on lakes. Then our navigator who shall be nameless set the wrong course and we realized in mid-lake that we were in mortal danger. We had two adults one of whom could swim, two children and no life jackets. It never occurred to us. We were beyond petrified and after two hours of abject fear pulled onto a beach on the mainland and camped for the night. At least we’d live the day and would set out at dawn for our put in location and waiting vehicle. According to reports we survived.

This is the event that we recognize as the nadir of our parenting adventure, the one by which all others are measured.

Even earlier when we lived in South Pasadena we bought matching Raleigh bicycles that we’d ride through toney San Marino to the LA County Arboretum in Arcadia. Kim had her own wheels but we installed a kiddie seat on Peggy’s bike so she could tote Garrett. Not my bicycle I emphasize. That would be uncool, and image is after all key. I was a callow jerk from the Eisenhower fifties. But I digress. Did Garrett wear a helmet you ask. Uh, no. Our mindlessness was epic. We are embarrassed and mortified by our ineptness to this very day.


Anonymous said...

Ah yes, it's a wonder any of us survived! But hey, those WERE fun times weren't they? :-) And this is my favorite photo of yours of Garrett and Kim. It's brilliant.

Daryl Black said...

You have come through, once again, with writing that yanks at the heart strings. My mother was the most significant reason why both my sister and I did not have children. Kudos to you for what obviously became an excellent piece of parenting, since as George H. W. Bush said before his death (this is not an exact quote) "I will be happy if my children still want to come and see me." You obviously did something right, Amigo. In the end, if there is sincere love, despite the mistakes, there is success!

Steve Immel said...

Thanks you two. What would I do without you?