The shifting tectonic plates, part one

Two days after my birthday, the tectonic plates of my life started shifting. While I am not a believer in fortune-telling, one has to wonder if the stars and planets were aligned just so, to produce so much upheaval in such a short time! This chapter covers the first of the changes, involving my father-in-law.

For the more than 18 years that Tawn and I have been together, my father-in-law has wanted no interaction with me. Not atypical for a Thai-Chinese father, he wanted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to Tawn’s relationship with me. In fact, the only time we spent together was some 15 years ago when Tawn’s parents came to visit him in San Francisco. That was limited to a visit to Mission Dolores and then dinner at a French restaurant.

In the 13 years since I moved to Bangkok, we have had only one very brief interaction until two months ago. Two months ago, while Tawn was taking his parents to the hospital for a check-up, he mentioned that I was going to be there, too, for an appointment. His father waited to see me, but that interaction lasted less than two minutes.

Then, two days after my birthday, Tawn had a severe allergic reaction to some medicine and I had to rush him to the emergency room. (He is fine now.) He called his parents and they joined, resulting in us spending the day together and having to confer on decisions about the best course of treatment.

At the end of the day as the staff was preparing Tawn for release, Tawn’s father suggested that if I had to work the following day, I should drop Tawn off at their house and they would look after him.

The following morning, after taking some conference calls from home, I dropped Tawn off at his parents’ house – about a ten-minute drive from ours. Tawn’s father came out and greeted me and suggested that after work, I come back to fetch Tawn and he would open a bottle of wine for us.

That evening, I stopped by after dark, not sure what to expect. What do you discuss with a father-in law with whom you have had no real interaction? Tawn’s father greeted me, invited me in and for the next two hours, served wine, engaged in a conversation about many things (including wanting to understand more about what I do for work) and we had dinner.

The evening ended with a “will see you again soon” that seemed to indicate that a new era has opened. In speaking with Tawn, we suspect that this medical emergency was sort of a catalyst. Perhaps Tawn’s father had already softened some time ago, but had not had an opportunity to break down the walls. The medical emergency provided the opportunity.

That was about five weeks ago and I haven’t seen Tawn’s father since, so we’re easing into this brave new world. But we have a holiday meal planned for the next week and I suspect that it will change the landscape of our world considerably.

For my own reflection, I realize that while I had accepted from the start that Tawn’s father’s openness and acceptance was not something I should expect or hope for, deep inside I think there was a lot of insecurity festering.

We don’t have the legal protections in Thailand that a married couple in the United States or some other countries have. Knowing that, if something happened to Tawn, my rights to his portion of our property could be challenged by his father, created underlying tension. As the relationship with his father has improved, it lets me relax my guard a bit and worry a little less about the future.

 

Kiki the One Day Dog

“I have something important I want to talk to you about,” Tawn said with a look of seriousness. “I think we should get a dog.” Trying to be a more effective communicator than usual, I decided to listen instead of immediately listing the dozens of reasons why getting a dog was a bad idea. So I settled back into the couch and tried very hard to have an open mind.

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The end result of the discussion was that we ended up getting a dog. Despite my misgivings – we live in a no-pets condo, and a small one at that; our schedules don’t allow much time for a dog; while I love dogs I don’t want to be responsible for one – I told Tawn that if he could address the concerns that I felt, we could get a dog.

A week later, Tawn drove to a breeder across the river to pick up an 8-month old King Charles Cavalier. She had just been flown in from another breeder in Malaysia the night before and Tawn had been talking to the Thai breeder for a few weeks before asking me if we could get a dog.

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I arrived home in the middle of the afternoon to find them in the bathroom: a sad, soaked pup shivering on the marble floor as Tawn tried to blow dry her hair. Even though she had never met me, she readily jumped into the relative safety of my arms. Her wet, floppy ears quickly soaked my shirt sleeves.

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We sat on the patio for the next hour or so, the ceiling fan stirring a gentle breeze as I held the dog, whom we named Kiki, in a towel and tried to dry her fur. Her shaking stopped and she would doze for short intervals but quickly awoke at any movement or sound.

After a trip to the local pet store to buy some supplies for Kiki, Tawn had to head out for an event. I had some cooking to do in preparation for a dinner the next day. Kiki sat in her basket for a while and then in her kennel, watching me as I cooked. Even though she could see me, she would frequently bark, calling for my attention.

I would let her out and try to keep an eye on her as I cooked. Three times there were accidents on our carpet. Not being experienced caring for dogs, I quickly Googled for advice and tried to respond to the accidents without anger, instead carrying her to some newspapers on the patio whenever I though she might need to go.

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Tawn returned home, excited at the prospect of a dog waiting for him. She still seemed a little timid, afraid perhaps that he would whip out the hair dryer once again. We put her in the kennel several times, leaving the room for  an increasing length of time. She would yip and yelp quite quickly and we were worried that the neighbors would be disturbed by the noise.

Finally, when it was time for bed, I decided we should take some additional online advice: to help puppies adjust, place their kennel in the bedroom at night so they can sense that you are nearby. This seemed a reasonable step but about once every hour or so, Kiki would wake up and call for us. Finally, after the third time, Tawn took the kennel into the living room and stayed with her while I fell back asleep.

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In the morning, I found him lying on the couch with Kiki in a basket nearby. With a voice filled with regret, Tawn told me that he had spent the night up with her. While doing so, he had evaluated his decision and said that he had probably miscalculated how much time and energy it would take to care for a new dog. He proposed that we call the breeder and return Kiki.

Again trying to be a good communicator, I listened, acknowledged his points, and let him know that I would support him either way. If he wanted to keep Kiki, we would find a way to make it work. If he wanted to return her, I would understand that, too.

In the end, we put Kiki in her basket and drove back to the breeder’s that morning. Kiki was subdued, probably from a combination of exhaustion and anxiety. Handing her back to the maid at the breeder’s house, I couldn’t hold back my tears.

The next day, the breeder posted a picture of Kiki (whose real name is something fancy like Lady Penelope) sleeping peacefully with her sister, along with a comment about how happy she seemed to be to be back at home. That helped reassure Tawn that we had made the right decision.

Looking back, I think it would have been possible to make Kiki a part of our lives. It would have taken a lot of work over several weeks, but it could have been done. But I also think that we made the best decision, because a dog (especially a lap dog) really requires time and attention. It isn’t fair to not be prepared to give them what they need to thrive.

 

Visiting Family

A fourteen hour layover in Seattle was my first stop in the United States. Arriving about 9:30 in the morning, I took the convenient light rail into downtown and conducted my most important business: drawing a money order and then mailing it, and my inch-thick Thailand visa application, to the Thai consulate. After a long wait, a surprisingly helpful postal employee walked me through the steps of buying the money order, properly addressing the express mail envelopes, and then packing everything correctly.

2013-08-02 -1After a browse around the Pike Place Public Market and lunch at a cute French restaurant nearby, I visited the Seattle Art Museum to see “Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion“. This exhibit, which runs through Labor Day weekend, has more than 100 dresses from Japanese designers such as Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada, and Rei Kawakubo. These designers revolutionized the way we think of fashion. I only wish Tawn could have attended the exhibit, which he would have found fascinating.

2013-08-08 03In the afternoon, I went to my aunt and uncle’s house and spent time with them and my cousins. Their daughter is about a year old and I last saw her in March at my grandparents’ 75th wedding anniversary, so it was nice to see how much she has grown since then. My uncle prepared some excellent wild salmon on the grill, so I was well-fed.

P1270235My red eye flight departed Seattle about midnight, heading east to a rainy Cleveland. A two-hour connection allowed me time for breakfast and a shoe shine before I caught my flight into Kansas City.

2013-08-08 04The next several days in Kansas City were spent visiting family members, attending football (soccer) games and gymnastics lessons, and the like. Four and a half days was enough time to see everyone, catch up, and then move one before wearing out my welcome. Unfortunately, no time for a side trip to Omaha or Quincy, though.

 

Visiting Friends in SF

Out in San Francisco this weekend to visit friends.

 

Paul and I took BART out Friday evening to see Bruce and Howie.  They live out in San Ramon, 45 miles east of the City.

 

Bruce’s parents were in town from the central California coast – the area where “Sideways” was set.  I’ve wanted to meet them and was glad to have an opportunity.

 

Dinner was supposedly a “simple” affair.  Not the case, really, as Bruce is a passionate cook and his simplest meals are actually very grand.  This evening, he prepared four different gourmet pizzas for us, preceeded by an amuse bouche of mussels – the recipie came from this book.  Very tasty indeed.

 

This morning (Saturday) I woke up early and had breakfast at Miss Millie’s restaurant (24th Street and Castro) with Bob, Anita’s roommate.  Bob’s partner is also in Thailand, so we have lots in common.  Bob looks a lot like my friend Albert.  I’m going to make it a project to get a picture of both of them together.

 

After breakfast I headed to the airport where I did a fun overnight trip to JFK.  More about that tomorrow.

Remembering My Grandmother

A busy several days.  On 26 July my 92-year old Grandmother, Wilma Schultz, passed away.  She had lived a very long life with lots of adventures, but in the past 18 months her health had begun to decline and she had said several times that she was ready to go.  So when she peacefully slipped away late Tuesday evening, I was glad that her wish had come true.

 

On Thursday 4 August we held a memorial service to celebrate her life.  A de facto family reunion, about four dozen people gathered at my grandmother’s church – St. Mark’s United Methodist – to listen to her favourite poems and psalms, to sing her favourite hymns, and to share stories about her life.

 

One of the passages that the minister read was this poem from the Unitarian Church’s daily devoitional.  (Interesting because my Grandmother was a Methodist.)  I think it is quite inspirational.

 

 

Life

 

By William Arthur Ward

 

The adventure of life is to learn.

 

The purpose of life is to grow.

 

The nature of life is to change.

 

The challenge of life is to overcome.

 

The essence of life is to care.

 

The opportunity of life is to serve.

 

The secret of life is to dare.

 

The spice of life is to befriend.

 

The beauty of life is to give.

 

The joy of life is to love.

 

 

 

Above: my grandmother as a young lady – probably around 1926

 

Below, left: with my grandfather, Elmer Schultz, out on their farm in Ionia, Missouri (late 1930’s).  Right: their 50th wedding anniversary in 1985

 

 

 

The funny thing about family events like this is that there are so many people you haven’t seen in years and years, and they all know you even if you don’t know them!