Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Perspiration dripped into my eyes, but my gaze was fixed upon all the golden, fragrant apricots above me in my father’s tree. I thought about all the people who would kill me if I fell off the ladder, so I quickly banished the thought to concentrate, and moved on to using the fruit picker.

Apricots are summer’s ephemeral fruit. One blink and the entire tree has ripened over night. Better get them down before the birds beat you to them. Already many were past picking, so juicy that the mere vibration of my hand about to grasp them was enough to send them melting off the branch, landing with a splat. My mother hated to think that my dad’s apricots were languishing on the tree – not much is worse in my family than the unharvested, the epitome of mottainai, or wasted. So I dropped everything to drive the hour to Anaheim, to spend two dusty, sticky hours filling box lid after box lid, shuttling them into the back patio where my mother sorted them into “Susie take home to make into jam,” “give away to eat,” and “let sit for another day before giving away.”

So shoe-horned into my preparations to leave for an academic symposium were two batches of apricot jam. It made for a bit of hecticness before flying out to Vancouver, but I knew it would be worth it. If I may say so myself, this jam is sunshine on toast. I am about to get out my apricot crumble recipe. My pal fellow associate dean Jane has stopped hinting for more apricot linzer cookies; she’s taken to out-and-out wondering when am I going to get around to making them again.

Before leaving my parents’ orchard of a backyard, I also picked several nectarines and navel oranges. I didn’t have time to pick the grapefruits and lemons among the forty years’ worth of fruit trees out there.

When I meet up with my family and friends next week at our timeshare in Laguna Beach, I’ll bring with me the jars of jam. One I’ll trade for a jar of karashizuke which my mother is making out of the nasu eggplant I grew. It’s summertime, and food project season is officially underway.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A year ago Father’s Day, Akemi was brave, braver than I expected her to be. After Bing passed away in January 2003, she and I have found it tough to be at church on Father’s Day when the whole agenda is suitably, predictably about fathers and fatherhood. For one who has put a priority on showing up at church and church events, Father’s Day for a few years after was the one day I excused ourselves from the pain of being there.

I figured, though, we couldn’t escape the day forever, and she and I have mustered through a number of them since. As the years have moved on, I have recognized that for Akemi, each Father’s Day represents another year, and an increasing part of her life, without her father here.

Then last Father’s Day she was asked to speak in church about honoring fathers. I think the invitation came at a time when she was able to consider it, and she was asked to speak by someone whom she respects and in whom she sees a lot of her dad. After she agreed, I reminded her that the most memorable Father’s Day talk I have ever previously heard was by our good friend Marsha, whose father had passed away when she was a baby, and who spoke about her brother and other men who had stepped in at important times in her life.

I was very proud of Akemi for her willingness to accept the assignment, as well as for what she said. She cited how she can live her father’s legacy by following his good example of “how he respected my mother, how he loved his parents, how he was excited to serve others, and how he chose to be happy, even in stressful situations.” She said she realizes now that when someone shares an experience with her about her father, it’s Heavenly Father’s way of giving her the ability to know the man she only knew as a child. She also shared that one of her friends thought she has “some kind of weird sixth sense” ability to “know things,” and Akemi recognized, perceptively, I think, that the Holy Ghost was prompting her friend to let Akemi know that the presence and influence of family members beyond the veil is real.

As Akemi and I arrived in Boston at the end of August 2009 for the start of Akemi’s college life, my girlfriend Linda, her husband Henry, and their son Jonny were “all hands on deck” in helping us move Akemi into her dorm. The morning of move-in day, Henry said something that touched me so much I will never forget it. He said, “I could never fill Bing’s shoes, but on a day like today, I am honored to stand in his stead.”

While nothing can replace him not being here, I’m continually grateful for all of the sensitivities extended and support we’ve received. This past week as I was swimming with Akemi on a short east coast visit, in the water I felt so happy and, well, satisfied: happy that I was doing something that I could not have managed even a few months ago, and satisfied that we were enjoying life, just as Bing wanted us to, as complicated as that has become. As Akemi recognized, Bing chose to be happy; so should we be, and we are.

P.S. I have always liked this photo of the two of them together at the back door of his office because it captures Bing’s cheerfulness.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My friend Karyn e-mailed me from the Dublin airport that she had tied “clootie” prayer rags at trees next to the sacred wells of St. Brigid and St. Kevin on my behalf. I was able to reply that it was no wonder that last week went so well with good will emanating from different quarters of the Emerald Isle for me. Tylenol and a couple of hot baths kept me moving through the achiness that hit over the weekend, and I surprised everyone by showing up back at work on Monday, sooner than expected.

Many have asked me if, now that it’s summer, I actually have to go in to the office? The answer is yes; although the pace does significantly relax once we get past Commencement, my work goes on year-round. My summer programs for high school students are about to start, incoming freshmen come and go for orientation, I have graduate students taking a summer course, and then there’s the planning for the fall semester activities and programs and the start of the academic year. I’m in charge of the undergraduate accreditation reviews and now’s when we (I) prepare for the five reviews coming up this next year. By the first week of August, we are back in high gear.

Akemi, in the meantime, has moved into her new apartment, getting settled with her new roommates, assembling furniture, and cooking in her first kitchen. I’ve mailed care packages of soba noodles, S & B Golden Curry, mapo dofu packets, and other “necessities” I missed when I lived on the east coast. I’m sure they can be found now but necessarily not in her small local grocery store. Too bad our local Mexican food stuffs don’t ship quite as well. She’s designing new experiments for the Museum of Science on her internship, and had fun helping some children in French the other day. Between her internship hours and summer restrictions on the access to the Tufts Performing Arts Center, she is confounded in getting in enough practice time, her perpetual dilemma. And doing some computer modeling with the Tufts Spatial Cognition Lab just got added into the mix. No moss is growing on that stone.

In keeping with all good wishes Irish and in keeping up with all that is needful and pleasing to the Lord, I share with you this prayer that I came across and saved:

This day I call to me:

God’s strength to direct me,
God’s power to sustain me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s vision to light me,
God’s ear to my hearing,
God’s word to my speaking,
God’s hand to uphold me,
God’s pathway before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s legions to save me.