Obituary: Frank D. Berry

Frank D. Berry, MD, died Feb. 2 in his Los Altos home. He was 101 years old. He died peacefully, in his sleep, after a very brief illness. He was born during the pandemic of 1919. He died during the pandemic of 2021 (although not of Covid).

Taken in 2009, on his 90th birthday

Dr. Berry practiced medicine for more than 40 years, as an ophthalmologist, based in Los Altos. In the 60s and 70s He was known all along the west coast as one of the best eye surgeons in several states. Patients flew from as far as Seattle and Los Angeles to have him to their surgeries. He was one of the first eye surgeons to do corneal transplants back in the early 1960s. In 1955, Dr. Berry was the first chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee for the El Camino Hospital District. That committee began the work that led eventually to the creation of El Camino Hospital, in Mt. View, CA.

El Camino Gavel
Chairman of the first El Camino Hospital Advisory Committee

Born in Worcester MA, Berry grew up in Milford MA and graduated from Milford High School, Holy Cross College, medical school at Tufts University, and in ophthalmology at the Illinois Eye and Ear Institute. He enlisted in the US Army during World War II, and served as a medical officer during that war and the war in Korea. He married Jean O’Neill in 1945, Frank and Jean and their children lived in Washington state, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Illinois before they settled in Los Altos CA in 1953, where they raised their family.

He was an Army captain

After Jean died in 1988, he married Elizabeth Dunn in 1989 and they lived happily together, in their home in Los Altos, until Elizabeth died in 2011.

Dr. Berry remained vigorous throughout his 100+-year-life. He was well known at the Los Altos Golf and Country Club, where he was the oldest living member until his death. He played tennis well into his 90s, and was active in online bridge and stock trading up to the last week before he died. He and Nora Buys, now 96, were loving companions after Elizabeth died.

He is survived by four children: Frank Berry Jr., of Mountain View, CA; Timothy Berry, of Eugene, OR; John Berry, of Forestville, CA; and Martha Berry Dannis, or Hillsborough, CA.

Inflection point. 1979.

So what was special about 1979?

Hong Kong Was the Least of It

Business International transferred me to Hong Kong, finally, after more than a year of me first dropping hints, then asking.

I spent most of February and March of that year in Hong Kong, testing out a job in Hong Kong with Business International. I stayed in a hotel on the Kowloon side, ran along Hong Kong bay in the early mornings (hot, but not as hot as it was later), then went to the Business International offices in b grade office space on the Hong Kong side. Every day.

They invited me out at night, some. They invited me to sail on their junk (yes, really) to an island in the bay, about 90 minutes each way. I bought a used Honda Civic and agreed to take over the apartment of the guy who was leaving.

I have no pictures, but vivid memories. No, I didn’t go, after all. It’s a long story.

We moved from Mexico to the United States.

I started at Stanford business school. We moved into a 3-bedroom townhouse at 100C Escondido Village, on campus. I started working with Creative Strategies International. Life was good.We drove our beige Rambler American station wagon from Cuernavaca, where we stayed the last few days in Mexico, to Stanford. It was packed to the gills. We shipped what we could via “air freight.” The picture here is of a stop in San Diego along the way.

The Car Filled with Smoke

The car filled with smoke on the first day, when we were barely driving up the hill from Cuernavaca towards Mexico City. La Manini (we were going to drop her off at her home in Mexico City on the way north) said she smelled something burning and we ignored her. Then the smoke filled the car.

We dropped off la Manini and continued north, with the car backfiring and exploding frequently all the way to Guadalajara, about 8 hours away. We found a hotel and a taller. It turns out that the car had been tuned wrong — in preparation for the trip — by a local mechanic. Nothing serious.

The Throat, The Jellyfish, the Desert

Sabrina had a throat and a temperature a lot of the way. We had to stop for antibiotics in Culiacan.

Mom got stung by a jellyfish in Mazatlan. Excruciating pain. She had to lay in the dark in a room with all the curtains closed, even the sleeping ones, because she couldn’t stand the light.

The temperature in Hermosillo was 45 degrees centigrade. Do the math. We’d waited to stay at the Bahia San Carlos in Hermosillo for years, since it had been way too expensive for us the first times through Guaymas. We couldn’t stay out doors, it was too hot, and the room was dark and hostile.

We crossed an immense desert between Caborca and San Luis without seeing another vehicle, or maybe only two or three, in 100 miles. We had to go west south of the border instead of crossing into Nogales because of visa processing. When we got to San Luis, dark of night, finally out of the desert, we filled with gas and the car wouldn’t start. We hung at a dismal dark restaurant by the highway while the mechanic in the gas station tried to fix it. The place looked so bad that Mom wouldn’t let any of you eat anything except corn flakes and milk/ We waited, wondering what we would do if they couldn’t fix it. They fixed it.

It was near midnight when we got to the Holiday Inn in Mexicali. Hooray, civilization. Try to imagine how we looked at midnight after driving from Hermosillo, having the car go dead, at midnight.

Interesting, somewhat chilling note: in the middle of the desert afternoon, hours away from San Luis, we stopped for everybody to pee. It was weird, there was no shelter, just open desert, so you could see for miles, but there were no other vehicles so privacy didn’t matter. The desert must have been 115 degrees hot. There was no shade. I decided, just for I don’t know exactly what reason, to leave the motor running during the five-minute stop. Just in case. The next time it was turned off, which was in San Luis, it didn’t start. Think about that.

Crossing the Border

Next day, bone exhausted from Mexico and hungry to cross the border, where things seemed bright and clean and in working order, and cooler, and not covered with a fine grit dust sand, we were turned back. They couldn’t process the residence visa in Mexicali on a Saturday. We had to drive west again, south of the border, through another desert, to Tijuana.

The visa process was hard, demeaning, long lines, abrasive, too many people, including Mom and me and three blonde children. It took hours. There was no preferential treatment for gringo faces and little blond children. They found us all extremely annoying.

Finally we crossed into San Diego. I was enormously relieved to be back on the side of the border in which, if the car broke down, I could get motels, and help from parents, and so forth.

This is a picture of the next day, after a night in the Holiday Inn in San Diego:

The happiness you see on the faces was real. It was a different world. We had grown very tired of Mexico and very happy –despite all the uncertainty — with moving to the United States. We had planned to spend another night in San Diego and see the San Diego zoo, but we couldn’t resist, we drove to Disneyland. We took a motel room in the annex section of the Disneyland Hotel. We had made it. This was such a good time. Anticipation of happiness. And no, it wasn’t like “and then everything bad happened.” In fact, things stayed good for a long time.

What Happened to Hong Kong?

What happened to Hong Kong? It turns out that in January of 1979 I spent three weeks with my parents to get a nose job. They had to ream me out because the allergies had caused nasal polyps that meant I never breathed through my nose. This was the second time in my life, the first in 1965 when I was 17.

While I was there, I took advantage to interview for a job with Wells Fargo bank, which was then headquartered in San Francisco. Dennis Nathan, who had been in charge of Wells Fargo in Mexico, had become a friend and recommended me. When I interviewed, they told me I was an unlikely candidate because I didn’t have an MBA degree.

Great Moments

One morning when I was up very early doing pushups in the sunny spot on the living room rug, Dad walked out in his bathrobe, with his coffee cup full, and tossed me the business section of the San Francisco Chronicle. The headline said Stanford MBAs were getting huge salaries. Dad said I should get the MBA, why not, and I said don’t be silly, I have a wife and three kids. He said what the heck, go over there, talk to them, see what they say. Applying doesn’t mean you have to go.

This was one of my dad’s great moments. Advice gently given, no pressure, just a suggestion, no resentment if it wasn’t followed. And in this case, it was followed. I went, I talked, I applied. It wasn’t trivial. I had to take the GRE exams, do essays, get transcripts from Notre Dame and University of Oregon, the whole deal. I completed my application just before I left for Hong Kong.

When I returned from Hong Kong Stanford has sent a telegram. I had been accepted. that year they took one of every 25 applicants. I hadn’t really taken it seriously, but suddenly it was real.

Two months struggling with the decision. Mom said: “Tim, don’t worry, it’s both of us. We’ll take the risk together. If it turns out wrong, we’ll deal with that together. You hate your job now. It’s time to take a risk.” Or something like that. She was always in favor of education. I would never have quit the job and gone back to school without that kind of attitude. This was one of the great moments in our history.

    War of the Front Seat


    From a letter from Jay from a few years ago

    Martha and I didn’t really experience World War One or Two. We certainly both respect the horrors of both those wars, but we know in a visceral way, the “War of the Front Seat.”

    The “War of the Front Seat” took place on long automobile vacations between about 1964 and 1969. Constant arguing between mom and dad. I know that mom always accused me of ruining the trip to Canada (this was the one where dad, following the dictates of his inner voice, drove away from a gas station in Canada leaving me standing at the gas station.. Mom would often tell this story later, and she got a big kick out of it.), but mom did her part on occasion in putting a hurt on these car trips. I never understood the big deal over the map. I mean how hard is it to find your way around these big interstates and highways! But still mom and dad would have these tremendous wrangles over directions and the map. It was very odd. If I recall, dad’s general strategy was to kind of take a look on the map and decide, okay, we’ll take 37 and then 120, and then we’ll swing over to 99. Problem was that you didn’t get all the way over to 99. Or, at least, according to Mom you didn’t. Dad would take a look at the map and you take 37 and then 120 and then you swing over to 99. But Mom actually has THE MAP! That was the rub! Mom has THE MAP and if you look at it very closely, 120 doesn’t go all the way to 99. This dialogue would go on for about 10 minutes. Martha and I would be in the back seat kind of like, Oh, well, it’s happening again, I guess. Mom has THE MAP!

    This was just one of about nineteen battles in the War of the Front Seat. Martha and I never really kept track as to who was right. Did 120 end before it met up with 99. Was dad right, or was Mom reading the map wrong. I think it was half and half, but I’m not sure to this day.

    Martha and I would sit in the back seat with a kind of Ivan Denisovich stare. We never really understood, if truth be told, the War of the Front Seat. I’m not sure Mom and Dad understood it.. In the fog of war both parties stubbornly held their ground.

    — They had two radically different travel styles. Dad was kind of learn as you go, don’t worry about it. Map! Who needs a map! Well, okay, where’s the map? I’ll look at the map, fer Chrissakes! This was kind of the instinctive Irish approach. Mom came from the Klausewitz school of travel. You planned it out! You phoned ahead! You had to be prepared! You had to know the enemy and the enemy’s name was chaos, chaos in the universe, around the next corner, right around where 120 does or doesn’t meet route 99. Some of this, in retrospect, was genetic, probably Teutonic, but some of it came from her awful Pittsburgh youth.

    Trouble was around the next bend! You did have to prepare for it!

    The following is a very recycled story, but it bears continual repeating, because anything that makes me laugh bears repeating. This was the trip to El Cajon, a classic clash of traveling styles and civilizations.

    — This was a trip with just Martha and I. Chip and Tim were in college and out in the world. They were now beyond beach trips. We had started out the trip in Newport Beach and I recall it was a nice trip. I was about 14 or 15. This was the last beach trip, by the way. Am I right about this, Martha?. I think it was. Anyway, after spending a week or so at Newport, the plan was to travel to San Diego and spend the night. Okay, no problem. Except in this case, Klausewitz had the upper hand. This was not a time for confidence and spontaneity. This was a Saturday night in San Diego and every motel room was no vacancy, no vacancy, no vacancy, NO VACANCY. Dad, was doing very well as an ophthalmologist/surgeon, and when the family went on one of these car vacations, we generally stayed in fairly civilized lodgings. It wasn’t Mauna Kea, but it was very pleasant and comfortable. There would be a pool, and maybe even a little dining room, where I could order a steak. But I couldn’t help but notice that as we wheeled through San Diego, all of the places that we would ordinarily stay in we’re filled up. One after another after another. Hundreds, literally, were filled up.

    Like many cities, San Diego has a very nice part, a nice part, a not so nice part, and a very, very not so nice part. Martha and I couldn’t help but notice that we had gone from the very nice part to the nice part, and now were traveling in the not so nice part. Dad was becoming increasingly quiet as we drove through the not so nice part not only because he wasn’t real happy about having to stay in some dive, but also on account of the fact that his whole travel strategy, which oftentimes worked like a charm, was losing and losing badly to the Klausewitz/Werthenbach school of travel planning and engineering. The representative of the Klausewitz camp was very forthcoming in making clear the deficiencies of the instinctive travel school and calling for a paradigm shift, even if it be somewhat violently imposed. Needless to say, Martha and I could hear the mortars explode– we had put on our helmets. We were back in the War of the Front Seat!

    Things only got worse. We all expressed our amazement at just how many motels there were in San Diego, and just how many were filled. I remember wondering as to why San Diego was so popular on a Saturday night. Just what went on in San Diego on a Saturday night? We were soon neck deep in the very, very, very, not so nice part of town. A feeling of chaos and heat and people making up for a bad week with one wild Saturday night.Wild people yelling out of cars, little roadside cantinas where four hours later Rodriguez and Martinez will shoot it out over Rodriguez’ sister. Lots of semi-desert. Much scarier than all desert. We actually were out of San Diego now. We were now in a place called El Cajon. Ever since that night, I have heard the name El Cajon associated with horribly savage crimes. Stories in the newspaper about how the suspect spent the night at a motel in el Cajon, the body later found in the surrounding desert…

    We did finally find a place to stay. We wheeled up and parked the car in front of a woman who was kind of stumbling around by the second floor railing. The woman was a friendly but very strange looking sort with the wildest hairdoo I have even seen. She could have raised bees in that hairdoo for a second income. It looked like a Mesotopamian ziggurat after a big storm. She was also very deep in the bag, as they say. In fact, she was waving a very large bottle of tequila around and kind of slurring her speech: “Come on, in!” she slurred. Needless to say, Klausewitz was not terribly amused!

    The rest of the night had its moments. Poor dad, from all the stress that goes with completely having your world view debunked by your wife, was suffering some major league chest pains.

    And, as you’ve probably heard, there was a funeral home across the street from the motel with a blinking neon sign! About 1:00 a.m., we were all treated to the sound of what sounded like about 12 cowboys promoting a rodeo. I went to the window and saw about three long-legged kind of trashy looking women sitting on these porch- like abutments to the rooms kiddy corner to our wing. They were smoking cigarettes, wearing lingerie, and talking with okie accents to the cowboys who were driving up to the porch-like abutments. It was one of those places old as mankind itself. The cowboys had arrived with only pure thoughts about developing serious relationships with these young ladies. I must say I found myself quite intrigued by the whole scene. I even thought it would be nice to stay in these kinds of places more often!

    All in all, it was quite an adventure, and, truth be told, kind of a fun place to stay. That night before we returned to the motel, we went to some extremely hot, non air-conditioned theater in El Cajon and watched a James Bond movie, Thunderball, while munching in the dark on fried chicken we brought into the theater from a Kentucky Fried.

    When I think of it, actually, Klausewitz was wrong! If we had planned it all out, we wouldn’t have had the adventure that night in El Cajon.

    — Now, it’s time to reflect on the Emily Post Table Manners Institute, which mom was the director of for about four or five years (I think she gave up after that!) Comedian Bobby Slayton has this little patter that goes like this: “Ya think of Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, but ya can’t forget Moe of the Three Stooges” and then he goes off on Moe. Well, you could say Mom had the wisdom of Lao Tzu coupled with the beauty of Katherine Grayson (she told me people would often compare her to that particular actress when she was young), but she had a little Moe of the Three Stooges in her. During the most turbulent moments of the training sessions, mom was good for hitting me straight over the head with a fork or a spoon. Mind you, being a nurse and a loving mother, she would strike you over the hard-shelled front part of your cranium, so it would not cause you any academic harm in the future. But it hurt!

    I think the whole manners problem was just very frustrating to her. Chip had briefly attended the institute and graduated with maybe a D minus at best. Tim had done a little better. He left with a straight D. Martha graded out at a C minus. A disappointment for a girl. But I think I clearly wore the Emily Post Institute’s paper hat! I was failing the institute’s curriculum with wild gusto, and it put mom in a frenzy. I’d say three or four times during those years, when the book would be hauled out ( OH, GOD, NO! NO! NO! HERE COMES THE MANNERS BOOK! OH, GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?) The spoon would come flying over head and

    it really hurt! Mom would just take a complete dive into the deep end over this whole thing– she went koo koo over it. Still, when I’ve had to go back to my Emily Post roots, I can really bring it. I know all about putting down my fork until I’ve stopped chewing. So the institute worked to some degree. Whether it was the worth the excruciating pain to both mom and to us is another question.

    — When I think of mom I think of a very complex person with all kinds of quirks and good points and, yes, some bad points, but she was mostly a very warm and passionately caring soul.

    I remember one time in my life when I was in tremendous emotional pain. A lot of you know I had a very dim bulb relationship with an older woman during the fall of 1979 up to the spring of 1980. I took the relationship with operatic seriousness. I was really wearing the paper hat on this one. Predictably, the relationship started to go downhill, and wildly downhill, careeningly downhill like an elephant on roller skates. I was very emotionally out of control. I cried about half the day. My shirts were mildewed.

    One leaden afternoon I drove/limped up to 23260 to eat dinner, completely out of my mind. I found myself at one point crying my stupid eyes out in the bathroom. The rational side, through the tears, could look at that stupid face in the mirror and think: God, they don’t make morons like you anymore. They threw away the mold! Still, pain is pain. I will always remember Mom kind of racing in and hugging me during that moment. It is a very tender memory. We all know she would come to help any of us in a nano second.

    Before she died in 1988, during the spring, around March, I remember coming up to the house. These were tough visits. We all knew it was not long. Mom and I watched TV one night. It was pleasant, but it was not quite real. The bear was very much in the room. The thing at that point that obsessed her was the house. Would Dad be okay with dealing with all the details in the house. But not only that, she said several times to me: “I’m very worried about your dad. I’m very worried about your dad.” I will always be touched by that. Despite all the battles in the front seat, it was so clear to me how much she loved dad. And this was kind of the ultimate proof of that. She would be very happy that Dad found Liz and has had a nice life following all of this tragedy.

    Well, that’s all for now. It’s been painful to think of all of this, but I’ve laughed a little bit, too.

    I hope you enjoyed it, beloved family members. The cars are still whooshing by on Mirabel, and Riley is now in a dog’s deep dream.. What a beautiful dog he is!

    And mom always, always, lives on in my mind.

    But wait! Don’t think it’s over!. I do believe in the spirit world and I do believe that some day we will all be together once again. We will all be piled into the Oldsmobile 88 about 15 or so miles from the center of the world– King City.

    It’ll be hot and the sun will filter through a mystic grove of eucalyptus fanning by on the right, and Chip’s shoes will take up about half of the back seat.

    When we get to the mysterious center of our journey, we will drink an ice cold 10 cent coke from one of those thick little bottles. That Indian summer Pierce will bring it and Willy will send two of em flying out of there. The Dodgers will lose once again!

    And that fall the great Miyahara will once again toss the pigskin around Lancer stadium.

    Or, more accurately, he will scramble for his life in the pouring rain!

    But dad, you’d better watch out, for it won’t be all a bed of roses, because in the front seat sitting next to you, Mom will have THE MAP!!!!

    Remembering my Mother

    From a letter from Jay from a few years ago.

    Mom died on a Wednesday. I remember it being extremely hot, well over 90. I was subbing in San Francisco and I just blew off work. I felt very, very strongly that she would die that day. I drove home. The freeway was blazing hot and it was a very unpleasant trip. I remember being very scared in a way to enter the house, and I started up Eastbrook ave, got to where my old school was, and headed to Hal’s Echo for a beer. Weird thing to do, but I felt horrible about entering the house. After a surreal beer at Hal’s echo in the corner of the bar, I headed up to the house. The front door was unlocked and I just walked down the hall to see Mom. I knew when I saw Mom the Saturday before that she was very, very, close to death, so I was somewhat prepared for how she looked. That Saturday when I had walked into the room, she kind of perked up and her eyes dilated just a bit. She knew it was me, but she couldn’t talk.

    This is the most difficult image I have ever seen. Excruciating.

    Wednesday was in some way easier to see Mom than on Saturday when she had some consciousness left. Apparently on Saturday she had recognized and said something to Aunt Bruna. By the time I came, she was grasping to say something, but she was incapable of talking and getting the words out.

    When I got to Mom’s room, dad barely noticed me. He was praying at the foot of her bed. It’s strange the things you notice, and I remember how big those rosary beads were. They were absolutely gigantic. You could use them as martial arts weapons.

    I believe he was saying hail marys over mom’s unconscious body. It looked like there was very little time. For a while Dad and I sat like zombies in the TV room. There was a basketball game kind of dripping sound in the background. It was a Larry Bird game, but it was all just a big blob, a mishmash of stupid sound and squeaky shoes on the Celtics’ parquet floor.

    I heard Mom die.

    I was in the kitchen and I heard a loud sound, kind of a nasal sound. It was very short. I went to the TV room and told Dad that he ought to check on Mom, and that I had heard a strange sound. Dad went in and confirmed that she had passed away. Dad went into a strange state-of- shock kind of battle plan that he had already rehearsed in his mind, calling Dick Wheat and the funeral home to take her away. “The great” Dick Wheat did arrive. For a long time afterword, I always remember dad getting choked up referring to “that damn Dick Wheat.”

    As many jerks as there are running around, you always have to remember the Dick Wheats running around. Finally, about a half hour after Mom’s death, these two strange characters came to the house and they loomed in the hallway, waiting to take Mom’s body away.

    One guy was big and tall with a big lantern jaw. He was like that loony guy in the old Alfred Hitchcock show, a migant worker, who shows up on this lady’s door and says “I’ll pick your peaches” in this psychopath way. The other guy was short and kind of like George in Of Mice and Men. The short guy had an impatient look on his face as Dad and Dr. Wheat talked over the body of Mom lying on the bed. Finally these two strange characters were able to take Mom away in a big blanket. Hail Mary, full of grace…

    These are images I seldom visit, except they still come to visit me.

    I remember how mom would change from day to night. She was a classic gemini with a kind of dual personality that way. During the day with all of her chores and all, she could be very crabby. I remember her returning from the store in the afternoon and being unpleasant to be around. Mom and I did spend a lot of time in those days watching the Mike Douglas Show and the Merv Griffin show together and making comments about various things. She always had interesting takes. I remember Angie Dickenson came out one time, and mom making the comment: “She’s the kind of a woman who will go after anyone in pants.”

    I must confess that to a Bellarmine sophomore this sounded like the kind of woman I wanted to find! Though I still think to this day there is something strangely sinister about Angie Dickenson. Mom was extremely intuitive. These were not opinions that were read or borrowed.

    They came from her deepest intelligence. Mom could play bridge like a whiz, and was a technically very bright person, but her intuition was her greatest asset, and I don’t think I have ever met anyone with her kind of intuitive intelligence. Chris Thomas once commented to me that “your mother is really smart.” And what I think he meant (he was about 14 or so) was that mom was smart in the real sense, the intuitive, lasar-like, intelligence that operates beyond and before language and symbol. This is what I meant when I made the comment at her funeral that “mom knew what you were thinking sometimes before you thought it.” She knew people and she knew them in a deep way.

    Mom was an intriguing, quirky person in many ways. I loved her very much as a person, a fellow traveler, as well as my dear mother.

    — I remember her talking to the indoor plants while she watered them one afternoon. “Mom, ”I said, “do you always talk to those plants when you water them.” “Of course, I always talk to the plants,” she said, rather matter of factly.

    — We all remember the famous Good Friday with Kitty Fischer. Oh, that was a strange, painful day. Mom was locked in the bathroom, crying, beside herself. I remember constantly knocking on the door: “Mom, are you all right?” It scared me to hear mom crying like that.

    This was a very tough person who you could easily imagine working twenty four hour shifts in a mental ward during World War II, or having dental operations with no novacaine, causing the dentist afterwords to say to her: “You’re like a marine.” And still she was absolute jello that day.

    — Why did that happen? It was the view, almost like the mountains had some kind of deep, Chekhovian sort of importance to mom. The mountains that turned the sunset colors in the summer evenings. The mountains that were in the window as she worked in the kitchen. The mountains that held huge mystical significance. I know that Mom and Dad at times had a feisty marriage, but I don’t think it was always issue related. I think in some ways the distant mountains, metaphorically speaking, were the truth to mom. The constant issues of the day were part of the world that was sometimes an annoyance beyond what she could take.

    — A short pause here. I’m typing in the front room surrounded by our Indian Bottle Brush in full bloom and our epic German shepherd, Riley, is sleeping on the bed next me. Mom would have just loved Riley. This is the most beautiful German Shepherd I have ever seen. I once saw a picture of all the Rin Tin Tins all lined up, and Riley is more impressive than all of them. That’s objective! I’m not kidding. What a beautiful dog. About five minutes or so, when I was recounting the last moments of Mom’s life and all, I began to sob, and ol Riley looked over me with this extremely touching, sympathetic look. Is there anything on God’s moist blue/green planet more adorable than a beautiful German Shepherd. The nobility is endless! I am sure that Mom has met Lena up there wherever she is.

    -Mom and I had a weird bond over psychic phenomena. We both were kind of fascinated with it.. Mom would read endless books on the stuff. Ruth Montgomery, Jean Dixon, the woman with Seth (I forget her name), and on and on. She would always say she didn’t believe in it, and she was a little bit embarrassed, but then you’d see her reading those same books. I’m the same way, I must confess. I am embarrassed by my interest in all of it, and for a time I subscribed to a magazine whose whole agenda is to debunk all that stuff, Skeptical Enquirer. Still… Mom had one weird dream that she always talked about. She dreamed about the place where Martha Raganese lived. She dreamed the road, the yard, the house, and she later visited Martha Raganese and the dream was spot on. She really did believe in the spirit world, and I remember one time after Granddad had died, mom said to me: “Maybe he’ll come and visit you tonight.” I was immediately seized with skin crawling horror:” YOW! Mom, that would be horrible. I don’t want to be visited by a ghost!”

    Though I believe in some kind of spirit world sort of after life, I’m kind of chicken about contact with em right now.” “Oh, the spirits are usually good when they come to visit people,” Mom said, again, matter of factly. I think she was wrong about that. Bad ones definitely can come around, too.

    — Mom loved music and especially melodious stuff. I think she liked a lot of the opera that Chip played, and the classical music. She sang a ton of melodic pop songs from the 30’s, and had an encyclopedic memory for all the lyrics. It was interesting for me to play records for her, because she would react to them in interesting ways.

    One time she expressed a great liking for the Doors’ song, “People are Strange.”

    One time I played Frank Zappa’s “Duke of Prunes,” a song with great musical qualities in it, and she remarked: “that’s like a Broadway song.” She was absolutely right, and few people glomm on to that aspect of Zappa’s music. She once was talking about the violin and she made the following comment:” violins together sound wonderful, but they don’t sound that good alone.” This is a very insightful comment, although Isaac Stern might disagree with it, or Stephane Grappeli/Jean Luc Ponty. I am grateful to Mom that she thought to have me take piano lessons. It’s been a big part of my life. Ms. Terry, the polio-stricken teacher who gave me gold and red stars when I nailed a piece down, was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, and you can’t do much if you don’t know your scales.

    I got to be a snot nose adolescent, and mom would say: “play some of that pretty music.”

    Being a jerk, I would proceed to play atonal, obnoxious music oftentimes. What a jerk.

    For the CD I thought of writing something for Mom called “some pretty music” or something like that in German. It just seemed like the title should be in German. But the piece I wrote for mom is called “Etwas Musik fur meine Mutter” (Some Music for my mother) and it’s a turbulent, yearning, 19th Century flavored piece that builds to a plateau and then becomes wistful and bittersweet. The two sides, I think, to mom. I don’t think Mom would have particularly liked that piece. I think she would much prefer the song “Rhettahunji.” That is what she meant by pretty music. “Etwas Musik fur meine Mutter” is about 8 minutes long and every note in that piece had to be memorized, since I do write down notes on occasion, but with great pain, especially given my terrible graphic skills (this is why the computer software for composition will be a Godsend when I can get that going!).

    Mom, I hope you’ve heard that piece somehow. Do you like it? NO! You like the more melodic stuff! I knew it!

    –Mom had room-stopping charisma like nobody I’ve ever seen. I remember those dinner parties where everybody would be in full yammer, and mom would say one little thing, just one little teasing introductory remark, and the whole room would be like the E.F. Hutton commercial.

    It was strange! I saw it happen again and again. I’ve never seen anyone do that. The wait was usually worth it, too, I might add.

    — Mom’s thing with talk shows was always kind of interesting. She loved Joe Dolan, she had mixed feelings for Jim Eason, mixed feelings for Ira Blue, and she disliked Hilly Rose. I remember how disappointed she was getting off the phone with Hilly Rose. It was a call against Vietnam and it didn’t snap and crackle like she was hoping for.

    I think Mom would probably have hated Rush Limbaugh and the new right wing shows like Michael Savage would probably enrage her. I think she would have listened to Art Bell, and if she were alive today, we would discuss the Art Bell show, of that I’m sure.

    Art Bell is neck deep in trash and doo doo, but he has an ingenious sense for radio drama and dynamics. This is one area where I know what I’m talking about. I’m the biggest radio freak of all time and know all the talk shows, and even call them. The local talk show host in the afternoon is a babble first, think later kind of Pavlovian reactor Sonoma County produces with a profusion correlative to its grape harvest. I have called her about 15 times, usually about 5:30 when I am doing the dishes. Pat likes me because I am polite and always start my raging attack with “Hi, Pat, nice show you have today.” She knows me as Bill from Forestville. I can’t use my real name, because I’m a teacher, and teachers generally don’t allow other teachers to hold opinions different from their own. I would probably be blackballed from the district. That sounds paranoid, but you’d be surprised at the close-mindedness of teachers. The repressed emotions build and build until teachers, above the neck, wind up just as gnarly as the wind-scultped trunks of cypress trees.

    As per mom’s politics and Tim’s associating her with “question authority” bumper stickers:I don’t think mom today would subscribe to any one political agenda. I think she would be

    swayed by arguments, for example, against self-defeating governmental bureaucracy, calculating and self-interested ethnic cheerleading a la Jessie Jackson, and questionable science in the name of hysteria and government jobs for bureaucrats. Tim is right to associate mom with the “question authority” bumper sticker, though I think she would be very suspicious of the automaticism with which certain positions are taken these days. In Sonoma County people drive around with that bumper sticker, and I think: “Do these people question the numerous agencies and authority that promote the global warming scam?” Most of these people don’t question at all the authorities they choose to believe absolutely. In the case of global warming, few of these people know the arguments against the global warming thesis, or that predicting global weather patterns is an epistemological twilight zone. Many of the people who drive around with the “question authority” bumper sticker might as well be fundamentalist Christians. Both fundo Christians and eco-fundos take absolute positions, and both operate within a mythological pantheon of demons and angels, good guys and bad guys, Both are found upon the same archetype of the righteous true believer. I think mom would look askance at all of this. I think she might even draw parallels between these people and conservatives in the 50’s. There are many many haunting similarities.

    However, there’s no question, she would loathe George Bush. I have a strong feeling about that.

    As far as her view on the Catholic Church molestation crisis, I think mom might surprise people in this regard. Whereas, I agree with Dad that she would come down very much against the hierarchy’s failure to take action, she would also feel compassion for the priests who will be roped into this whole media hysteria. How many priests will be falsely accused of molestation?.

    Will the media focus on these people?. Will people who love to refer to McCarthy and the Salem Witchcraft trials make mention of the victims of this hysteria, and there will certainly be some.

    – Remember the Yahtzee craze. I loved those kind of quirky aspects to mom.

    – She was so wonderful after dinner when she was relaxed and the insights and the stories would just kind of roll out of her. Mom had a ton of family remembrances of her relatives, cousins, aunts. I remember there was one funny aunt, who had trouble with the part of her body which serves to repress potential flatulence, so she was, oftentimes, busting loose at odd times. Mom had a million of these type anecdotes.. There were a lot of trips to Safeway to get licorice and/or ice cream to assuage the family sweet tooth. I treasure those little journeys, because so often she would say little pearls of wisdom, simple but profound. I remember the exact spot where she told me, as we were wheeling into the Safeway parking lot: “It ultimately doesn’t matter what other people think.” How many mothers would say that to their kids. Not enough of em. It’s why people are as boring as they often are. Their conformist habits kill the fresh, wild, interesting side of themselves.

    I know I’m being harsh here. I certainly consciously repress a lot of stuff these days.

    –One time mom found a pack of prophylactics in my drawer. She sort of confronted me with it and said: “Think you’re a real big shot, don’t you! I’m sure you’re using a lot of these!” She was, as usual, right, I wasn’t using a lot of those. I did have some hopes, but there weren’t a lot of those Angie Dickenson types around in those days. I think this was around 1976.

    — There were some times I think mom went a little overboard. She took Bridge way too seriously, and I do think that if she was going to play with dad, she should have accepted the fact that he wasn’t always going to bid by the book. How many thursdays during high school, right around 10 o’clock, did I hear that door crash open, with mom, hurricane-like, deconstructing one of dad’s bidding errors in gory detail. It got to be very annoying. She should have just let that go, I think.

    –It was always dramatic when Mom was in one of her angry phases. Martha would come scampering back to my room like a little Indian. “Mom’s on the warpath,” Martha would whisper.

    “Oh, God, No!” I would think. It was like hearing a tornado alert on the local newscast.

    There would be a kind of uneasy feeling in the house. Bad ions in the air. I would hide in my room, but I knew that my time would come. It was like that oft quoted comment from Joe Louis preceding the Billy Conn fight: “he can run, but he can’t hide!” Mom was in the Joe Louis role and I was in the Billy Conn position, actually, make that fetal position. I would sit there in the back room, quivering with an anxiety far beyond the realm of anxiety as it’s commonly understood, knowing that at any time, my name would come hurtling through the hall like a tomahawk. It was tricky, too, because sometimes “Frank” sounded a lot like “Jay.” So sometimes I would think, that was “Frank”, it’s dad’s time, thank you, sweet Jesus, I’ve made it through the storm! But then I’d listen for that second yell: “Oh, no, Lord that sounds a lot like Jay. Oh, no! No question, that second one was Jay!” And all hell would break loose. Sorry to say, I would be mad to have my peace disturbed, and so mom and I often went a few rounds. Later she would refer to me as the “fuck you” kid. I had brought a new phrase into the home. There were some really horrible, yammering afternoons if I recall. A lot of Sundays about 3:30 or so. Seemed to be the time for the axe to fall, for some reason.

    In 1996 I wrote a poem about that last day. The poem is kind of one person’s psychic journey through this experience. Some deep unconscious stuff kind of swung the poem into a militaristic, almost preacher mode. I think it was the psyche attempting to violently strong arm this experience into a universal plea for mercy, but only after addressing the pain in some way. I like the poem, but poems only work inside you for a while. I don’t really have answers to that day.

    I find it a very painful part of the puzzle.

    Mom was a kalaidescope, a multi-dimensional person if ever there was one. Although she was a terrific mother, and she was able to teach us moral values in a very effective and memorable manner, I sometimes found her momhood a little tiresome in the sense that she could be almost too morality bound. I’m not sure she enjoyed her momhood that much– it was kind of a chore, and I think in some very subtle ways, some of the anger in mom was founded upon her intense perfectionism as a mom. Still, she bags an easy A plus for her momhood in the long run.

    1962 Was One Sweet Year

    From a letter from Jay to the rest of us, written a few years ago.

    1962 was one sweet year.

    • The Giants were in a torrid pennant race with the Los Angeles Anti-Christs. Some people knew them as the Dodgers, but I knew better the source of their evil!
    • The priests, Fr. O and Father S came over to the house. I didn’t quite understand all the issues, but I felt the electricity in the air. I loved to hear the tone of the conversation, there was an excitement to it. Was this just in my eight year old mind?
    • Father O would play a swingin’ piano and Father S would talk about teachingCatcher in the Rye at the seminary. Later, when I taught at Piner High in Santa Rosa, I encountered a man named Don Holden. Don, as it turns out, is a former Bellarmine grad, and we had that in common. Plus, Don spent a year at the Maryknoll seminary. He said Fr. Oliver was like a god. He directed a musical, and Don told me the kids were just in awe of him. He was an unbelievable perfectionist and did amazing things. He vaguely remembered Father S and said he was of a similar Olympian stature at the seminary, though Don still remembers Father O with the most extreme reverence! I remember the mysterious faded orange tower and the eucalyptus trees. The mysteries of Catholicism adumbrated around that image. Even today there is nothing more transporting for me than the smell of eucalyptus. Stanford games, maryknoll, 1962. (Watch it, Jay, nostalgia is a trick of the mind? Or is it a vision that fires the mind as it struggles through the Sisyphean days… Geez, I dunno, you tell me!)
    • The fruit hung ripe on the tree. In fact, we stole pomegranates from Mr. Brown’s tree. One day I wore a white T shirt and we ate about five pomegranates and smashed ‘em on the road. My T shirt had this bloody red look. Sort of OJ after a hard night’s work. Mom was not pleased to see the T shirt looking that way. One time later down the road, we were stealing the pomegranates, but Mr. Brown was out there on tiptoes and holding a shotgun. That weird looking bald headed Mr. Brown. He was expecting to nab the deer who were pilfering his pomegranates, but instead found Kelly and me, and I think, Ricky Gross. He explained to us, somewhat gruffly, and I don’t blame him at all, since we were freely scavenging the fruit from his tree with a kind of biblical energy, that Mrs. Brown made pomegranate pie from the pomegranates. Hmmm. Kind of weird, we thought, pomegranate pie. Would taste a bit tart, wouldn’t it?
    • Mom was more beautiful than the First Lady in those days. Radiant. Funny. Smart as a whip. I was convinced I had the best mom and dad in the world.
    • It was clear that Dad loved me very much. I always felt that. But I think he didn’t quite know what to think of me for a while. He knew I was very fond of one particular song: “I’m gonna leave ol Texas Now” (the song still makes me weep!), and that I was a hyperactive little thing, but it wasn’t ‘til he saw me field grounders that he thought: hey, this is interesting. This kid can do something very important: he can field a ground ball. Let’s face it—how many things are more important than that. What, you’re coming up with a list of 37 things more important than that. Hey, wait a minute, wait a minute. This is my letter!! Hold on!
    • Needless to say I was discovering the cosmic joy of playing shortstop. I only learned to read so I could read every word of that green sheet. I do remember sitting by the heater during 1962 and memorizing every batting average for the day. It was important. Steve Schwartz might start discussing Chuck Hiller, and you needed to be able to bring the average up right then and there. You needed to know Chuck was hitting a miserable 223, but that he wasn’t a bad fielder at all. And remember the grand slam later in that season! Baseball was just intoxicating that year!
    • Dad brought home an Oldsmobile 88. Whoa, Nellie! I’m never excited by Porsches I see on the road, or fancy BMW’s. Hey, I saw the 88, man! Brown leather seats. Aerodynamic design that wouldn’t quit. You could fly that car to the moon. No problem. The Chevrolet, the paleo-packard, the big blue electra, the mercury which overheated just for the fun of it about every 25 minutes or so, none of these cars held a candle to the majesty of the Oldsmobile 88. Damn straight!
    • Dad was jaunty, full of fun, finding his stride as a doctor in town.
    • He’d eat lunch with Dr. McGuire at a place called “Clark’s”. He took me along one time. They ate burgers on redwood benches.
    • Of course, this caused dad to BALLOON UP! The pajamas built special would be waiting under the Christmas tree!
    • Tim was a bumptious 14 year old, reading, riding bikes, playing Avalon Hill games, finding snakes, occasionally letting me pal along. (I think sometimes at Mom’s urging to take your little brother Jay along, too. Mom was always looking out for the little guy. In this case, it was me!) But I think Tim probably often let me come along out of the goodness of his heart. He was often very kind to me. As per Mom looking out for me, you guys have probably heard the story as to how I made the first friend in my life.The story is that mom had to go out on the road and offer little Mark Sherman a piece of cake on his way home. Like any little kid, Mark bit hard for the cake, and so our minor little friendship began. A quick anecdote that kind of sums up the relationship between the surly Mark and me. It’s spring break of that year. It’s Saturday. The birds are singing and all that, some of ‘em getting drunk and flying in to the windows, or just wobbling around on the driveway (Some musicologist should attempt to tape the robins after a full round of pyrocantha berries. I wonder if they start singing Irish songs?) But I digress…

      So I’m flyin down the road to see Mark high as an eight-year old can be. Coulda been Pooh feeling singy. Out of my head, ecstatic. I come up to Mark, who has a severe, kind of what are you doing here look on his face. Undeterred, I yell out: “Wow, we got ten days with no school (geez, I feel even happier these days when spring break comes around!), and the laconic Sherman, preparing for his later days as surly drug dealer, answers: “So?” This was Mark’s favorite phrase. He thought it was magical. So? So? He loved it. He thought it gave him Harry Potter-like special powers. Whenever Mark didn’t know what to say, he’d say “So?” Anyway…

    • I was absolutely thrilled on those occasions I got to go with Tim and his friends.. Wow, this was how the big boys lived. Only problem was that sometimes I would blurt out things that were not considered exactly swift. Embarrassing verbal faux pas that would just come flyin out unedited. (Come to think of it, some things don’t change!). One time I was with Tim and his friends and I called someone a “pud.” “Pud” was a word that I heard bandied around in those days, and I must admit, I liked the feisty finality to its sound, but its exact definition was obscure to me. Tim then leaned over to me and whispered in my ear: “pud means penis.”“Penis!” I was kind of stunned. Why was everybody calling everybody else a penis?
      Mysteries abound in the eight-year-old mind! Later, down the road a patch, I had said so many embarrassing “pud”-like things that Tim (obviously, this was the future president of Palo Alto Software) was forced to come up with some way of finessing the situation. He was a nice guy, and he didn’t want to spurn his younger brother, because, truth be told, he loved me and kind of liked me, too, but he had to find a clever way to stop my unseemly outbursts.
    • This resulted in the now famous “dippish ways” policy directive of 1962. Some people talk about Breton Woods and stuff like that, to me, the “dippish ways” policy directive of 1962 continues to loom large. The first attempt globally at triangulation. In short, this was the policy: whenever I would burst forth with something that was embarrassing to Tim and his peers, Tim would lean over me with a kind of Kissingeresque hushed whisper, and say: “dippish ways.” This clearly meant that I was being a “dip.” A “dip” meant roughly, “pud.” “Dip” was all you need to know in those days. In Dostoevsky’s Russia they might call you a blackguard. In sunny little Los Altos in 1962, dip worked just fine! In fact, “dip” for about two years, carried a kind of eerie, totemistic, power.I trembled at the thought of my own capacity for “dippish ways.” Actually, I think the “dippish ways” policy worked somewhat, though not completely. Point of fact, I believe the “dippish ways” alert system was operative that entire summer, though, thankfully, only activated once. The one time the “dippish ways” boom was lowered, it was as if I had been struck dumb by Zeus. To this day I don’t remember what I said to earn that dreadful whisper of warning.
    • Big brother Chip was not someone in those days with whom I did a lot of talking. I was eight and he was a very serious 16. His heroes were Bobby Fischer and Richard Wagner. He hung out in the back room, played chess games from tournaments that involved people with oftentimes frightening Bulgarian-sounding names. I still remember a lot of the names from that chess era for some crazy reason. There was Mikhail Tal and Petrosian and Botvinnik. That was the fabbest chess name. Botvinnik. Scary. You wouldn’t want to play chess with that guy. You’d have to hose off afterword! I liked the weird sound of the names, though. Even Chip’s friends had weird names. I thought that went with the chess. In fact, I wondered one time why Chip didn’t have a weird chess name. Some of his friends had names like Blasi and Boulash and Balff. Chip didn’t like ya unless you had a slightly off-kilter name, preferably with a patina of the sinister, Eastern European sound in it. I remember Boulash. I recall that Boulash had jet black hair with a lot of oily goo in it, a major-league acne problem, and that he had a kind of Heinrich Himmler-like sensitivity to eight-year olds hanging around the chess board environs. Where is ol Boulash today? Probably picking up radio signals from outer space through the mercury in his fillings. As bits of spittle fly out of his mouth, he’ll tell ya that “cryptography is better than sex!”Chip liked to talk about people first using the phrase “the great.” So it was the great “Botvinnik (right spelling?)” or the great “Bobby Fisher.” Around this time Mom got to Chip and convinced poor Chip into taking little brother Jay to a high school football game. I bet there was some real heavy-duty deal making on that one, something akin to Jimmy Hoffa in the 50’s. It was a rainy football game at St. Francis high school– St. Francis vs. Riordan. We sat in the bleachers Chip and I. I think ol Rossovich might have been in the game, but he was not his epic senior self, he was younger. Chip’s tendency to call people “the great” got a little out of line on this occasion. St. Francis had a tiny little Japanese-American quarterback by the name of Gene Miyahara. Miyahara didn’t have a bad game. He scrambled, and, at times, ran for some yardage. But even at that age, I couldn’t help but wonder if Gene Miyahara deserved to be called “the great Miyahara!” I think the guy was maybe five foot four!
    • One of the coolest things about Chip was the music he played. The Wagner, the Puccini, the Gilbert and Sullivan, and Mussogorsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, a piece I really liked a lot, not only for the intense, evocative music (I liked the Wagner at times, when he’d cut to the chase, and Puccini, absolutely), but for the title. Wow! A night on Bald Mountain. Mr. Brown in Russia. Guarding his pomegranate tree with a shotgun. The wind swirling around. Rimsky Korsakov in the background– making motions to the violin section they are about to be shot for playing so weakly. Nowadays titles are “Song for Heather” or “Heather be a Ho.” Or “Heather be bald on the mountain”. Ya gotta like a title like “A Night on Bald Mountain.” Course, if you don’t, you might be shot like the string section! I will always be grateful to Chip for bringing all that stuff into the house. (Not that Tim didn’t bring a lot of cool music into the house! See how sensitive I am to not hurting either of my brothers’ feelings!)
    • Chip was not always welcoming when I came pouring into his lair/catacomb. His favorite phrase at this time was “beat it.” It was used with a terrific consistency. I don’t blame him for his attitude towards me. I was probably an annoying little eight year old, I suppose. An annoying, vulnerable, psychologically sensitive eight year old. It’s no wonder I wound up serving 10 years at San Quentin!
    • When you walked into Chip’s room he’d be doing three things at once and eating milk duds, to boot. The room always had a memorable odor, I recall. A synthesis of fungicidal size 13 tennis shoes and milk dud afflatus that hung about with a tenacious longevity. Chip would rarely leave the lair, and his attitude to the great outdoors was not exactly Emersonian. It was an attitude that reminds me of comedian Will Durst’s take on nature. “Hey, nature for me is where I parked my car!”
      As for the tennis shoes that ate Chicago, mom probably saw those things in her dreams. Her nightmares! I remember so often Mom yelling for Chip to get his tennis shoes out of the bathroom. After a while the shoes took on mythic proportions.
      They became like living creatures, and mom and dad had angry discussions as to which college they should send the tennis shoes. You were liable at any time to find the tennis shoe/creatures anywhere.While Chip might be ruminating over Wagner’s notion of “gesamtwerk,” or “the great Wagner’s” notion of “gesamtwerk,’” the monster shoes could be left in almost innumerable locations. But Chip’s favorite spot for droppin em was the bathroom, no question about it. And so, like clockwork, came Mom’s blood-curdling cry of complaint, a sound that could slash through a peaceful afternoon like a hunting knife through silk.
    • Martha was the sweetest little sister anyone would ever want. And so I abused her as much as I could! I had no use for her at this stretch in my life, but I would soon learn to love and respect my back seat vacation partner. I love you, Martha. And I’m sorry I abused you so much! I’d say about every five years or so I go through a paroxysm of apologies to Martha over how I treated her. I’m so glad she turned out OK! Problem with Martha in those days was that she was unable to either field or hit. I was an unrepentant fascist as far as judging people in those days. If you could field and hit you were okay, you were of use. I will say that Martha could catch and chloroform a butterfly with the speed of a demon, and I did enjoy occasionally catching butterflies with her on Sunday mornings by the Chinese elm tree.
    • 1962 was the year Chris Thomas joined our class, the Ms. Rice cult.
    • Chris has now been my best friend for approximately 40 years. Pretty heavy. This is why we rarely have a problem finding conversational subject material. It’s a Grand Canyon wide index of topics going back to Ms. Rice. There’s a ton of people who have attained a kind of goofy semi- real status in our minds. All part of sloungerland now!
    • Later that year, and this story’s often been told, Dad heeded my pathological eight year old’s desire to send in for World Series tickets even though the Giants were about 8 games out with about 25 to play. Dad said what the hey, I’ll do it, see what happens. As we all know, the Giants won the pennant. Still the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. It’s been all down hill after that.
      One day Ms. Rice, the angelic Ms. Rice and vaguely erotic Ms. Rice (I was in the second grade, but I knew Ms. Rice was one steaming sex pot!) came to me and told me to go home, and that my dad had baseball tickets. Ecstasy. I’ve never been so happy in my life. Ever. Well, maybe a coupla times when the drugs really kicked in!
      So we saw ol Billy Pierce pitch a shutout. In your face, dodgers. Like a three hitter, and Willie hit two home runs. We were sitting way up in the upper left field reserve seats, the second deck, and everytime anybody hit a pop-up, on account of the visual distortion, it looked like it might be goin out. Oooh, the thought of this game still sends goose pimples down my back. Chillingly beautiful. Ol Pierce brung it that day, boy! So there Wills and Gilliam and Ron Fairly (what kind of a name is that? He had that dorky anal-retentive batting stance. A bad man!)
    • The World Series everyone knows about. Bobby Richardson and all. Peanuts cartoons for years following. Put a hurt on ol Schultz’ bean, I guess. Mom secretly was hoping the Giants wouldn’t win so they wouldn’t have a riot. Mom’s sheer quirkiness is one of the things I will always remember her for. More on that later.
    • My final memory is kind of an image. We are in the oldsmobile 88 (though I’m not absolutely sure that was the year of the 88, but I think it was), and we’re about 15 or so miles from the most exotic place of all time. If you think I mean Paris or Rome or Budapest or Shanghai, then you don’t know me! The very most exotic place in the world, and especially in 1962 was King City! What a wonderful, intriguing, mysteriously little place that was. Mom would always say: “When we get to King City we’re half-way there.” But anyway, the image is of being almost to King City, and the one o’clock sun is angling through a line of eucaplyptus on the right, and you can smell those trees deeply, because the window is open. Everything is mystical with potential and future and the beach and a coke when we get to King City. Not a can, not one of the throw away bottles they made in the 70’s. This was one of those thick little 10 cent bottles that came from the art deco little machine. “All of a sudden you get shown the light/ in the strangest of places/ when you look at it right.”
      And there is laughter in that car. Profuse laughter. Today we still get along, at times a bit less fluidly then one would hope, but in those days, the laughter cleared out everything in its way.
      Everyone, if I recall, was very funny, and I spent a lot of time just laughing and enjoying things. There was Rod Serling skulking around at times, making it hard sometimes to go to sleep, but I do remember Zorba the Greek in the back of that super 88. Somehow squeezing in beside Chip’s shoes…

    Uncle Buddy

    This was contributed by Chip to Amiglia:

    Uncle Buddy was one of my favorite relatives. I knew him by the name `Buddy’ since forever; I didn’t find out that his given name was `Fred’ until he married Bruna. I can still recall being mildly shocked to hear her use his real name. Being all of 10 years old back then, it had not dawned on me that `Buddy’ was only a nickname, like `Chip’. We had that in common, although I didn’t know it at the time.

    My mother once said he was the kindest person she had ever known, and I do believe that was his most essential quality, the one that defines him. My mother once recounted how she and my father had been stranded at the airport in the wee hours, and he had come some thirty or forty miles to pick them up. He was the sort of man who would do such things for people. Most of us would have relegated them to a taxi.

    My earliest memories of him are in Chicago, when I was about four. This must have been in 1950 or 1951. My dad must have been doing his residency at the Chicago Eye and Ear Institute. I suppose he and my mother had some weekend plans, because Tim and I spent the weekend with Buddy. He was still married to his first wife, someone named Betty, a nice, but very pale and shy woman with slightly protruding teeth – about as different from Bruna as it is possible to imagine. Uncle Buddy must not have had the slightest idea what to do with two small boys aged 3 and 4, but he did his best – that kindness again. We went to a museum and took a speedboat ride on Lake Michigan, which was a lot of fun.

    What he was doing in Chicago then I don’t know. Years later, when I was in the middle school years and an absolutely terrible student, my mother used to tell me about his experience as a cautionary tale. According to her, he had enrolled with his G.I. Bill money in a program at the University of Chicago that would have brought him a master’s degree in only four years. As I was told – repeatedly – he had done superbly in the physical science part of the course, but had for whatever reason refused to satisfy the breadth requirements of the curriculum, leaving himself without a degree when the funds were gone. As a result (according to her, lecturing to me), he was continually frustrated by the lack of a credential, and has to settle for chemical engineering jobs that he was vastly overqualified for. How much of this is true I don’t know. My mother was making a point, not doing history.

    On one of the rare occasions when my grandmother Edith acknowledged that anything had gone wrong in any part of her world, she mentioned that he had come back from the war in a low state and had married his high school girlfriend much too quickly. My mother once said (not lecturing this time) that when he lived in Chicago he used to spend a lot of time in black bars, listening to the jazz and making conversation. She was commenting about his musical tastes, but I wonder if it didn’t reflect some depression of his own. At any rate, he was extremely easy to talk to and made all sorts of friends and acquaintances in those hangouts.

    I have a few other scraps and patches of memories back then – a really glorious family picnic, Fourth of July or some such, with my Great-Aunt Anna and some cousins from Pittsburgh that I have never seen since, with Buddy in charge of the grill and having a great time. This was the first time I ever saw steak broiled. He also did sleight-of-hand, pulling coins out of ear or nose, which delighted me. But my next tangible memory is from the 1956 time frame. It was the first time I met Bruna.

    Not to make too big a deal about it, but this memory is vivid because Bruna was the first truly beautiful woman I had met in real life, i.e., in the flesh and not in the movies, picture or some such. (My mother was beautiful, too, I suppose, but a ten year old son doesn’t think like that.) She glowed with health and vitality, so much so that the impression is still with me. Though she was obviously someone who in the language of the `90’s could be characterized as a trophy bride, my recollection was that he wasn’t at all proprietary, but low key and natural. (Bruna would know for sure, but I suspect that this was one of the attractive aspects about him.) He spoke to her in Italian, which he’d learned by ear. Just what he was doing in Italy I don’t know – some job with an oil company, I think – Bruna would know.

    Between that date and the move to Danville in 1967, I don’t recall too much. These were the years of the lectures, when I also got from my mother what family history I know. She said very little about her childhood before the divorce, which must have happened about 1933. She did tell one very sad story about Buddy, which involved a neighbor boy accidentally shooting himself. She ran to get his parents, partly because it was necessary, partly to distance herself from the scene. But Buddy never left him as he lay dying.

    She also had happier stories. After the divorce. The family moved frequently to different places around Pittsburgh. One county was fairly rural, and Bujddy went out for track. He did quite well, in the 100 and 200 yard dashes, and was written up in the paper as `Fleet-Foot Freddy’. This was all well and good, but later they moved to a more urban school, with some good black runners, and he was no longer the best.

    She also mentioned some things about IQ tests that were interesting. She did quite well on them – but no matter how well she did, he did one or two points better. They were nearly always one and two in the class. This is somewhat sad, because neither one of them were particularly good students. (She was in the lecture mode then, pointing out that high IQ scores don’t insure success. Amen.) She also said he was quite popular with girls, and reasonably successful. He had a habit, before he walked into some teen-age hangout, of rubbing his hands together and saying, loud enough for my mother to hear, `Now, what looks interesting ?’

    Uncle Buddy developed his interest in swing music shortly before the war, and with it an interest in radio. He and my Uncle Dick used to sit with earphones on, attempting to bring in distant radio stations.

    My mother told me a few things about his military service, but I suspect he said a lot more directly, so I’ll pass on that. One anecdote of interest is that my grandfather Frederick Wurtembaugh evidently published a pome about him in the Pittsburgh paper for which he worked. Because Uncle Buddy was then going by the name O’Neill and Wurtenbach is a German surname, military intelligence had to check the matter out.

    The most important interaction I had with my Uncle Buddy occurred in 1967. He and Bruna relocated from Southern California to Danville. While they were househunting, they stayed in the Eastbrook house. My family had gone on vacation. I didn’t join them, because of a summer job I had. Tim was off in Europe on a Notre Dame foreign study program. One weekend in August, I played in a chess tournament on a Saturday, then became sicker and sicker on Sunday. I had severe pain on the right side of my abdomen. Uncle Buddy became more and more concerned. Finally, he suggested the possibility of appendicitis. I knew what that was, but hadn’t the slightest idea that the pain indicated that. I phoned a doctor my family knew well, who arranged for hospitalization and the works. Buddy drove me there. It turned out my appendix was badly inflamed and had to come out then and there. It would be melodramatic to credit my uncle with saving my life, but he certainly helped. He also visited me in the hospital several times the following week, which is the sort of favor no one ever forgets.

    We saw much more of each other after the move to Danville, though not nearly so much as we should after my mother’s death. The old story – no one realizes that the time is going until it is all gone. Uncle Buddy was a man of wide and varied interests, and always fun to talk to. The most striking thing was that he was always shy, almost grateful, for the attention. I developed my own interest in probability (in which he was an expert), though not nearly as knowledgeable as he, and I loved to talk to him about that.

    My Grandparents

    One of the sad things about the old timers is the lack of pictures. Because of the problems in saving old photos and old lore, we have just a precious few shared memories of the older generations. This family album has relatively little of my grandparents. I want to record at least some information for future generations.

    Frank C. Berry was a beloved local figure in Milford, MA. He died in 1946, before I was born.

    We need pictures of my dad’s mother, who we knew as Gram, who died in her 90s in Milford. She loaned me her old standard-shift Ford when I was in college and told me to teach myself stick shifts. She would shovel snow off of her driveway by herself until she was well into her 80s. She was a political liberal all her life, always well informed, always ready to engage in a political discussion.

    J.P. O’Neill, my mother’s stepfather, was a wonderful man and a very kind and loving grandfather to me when I was a boy. He and my grandmother lived in Ojai, CA, in a beautiful old, small, not fancy house at the end of the street, close to the mountains. He and Granma (“Noni” in this website) invited Chip and I to stay with them for a week or two several times in the summers. The house had a screen-enclosed patio that was wonderful on hot summer nights, and a huge oak tree. Grandad took us deep-sea fishing in a neighbor’s boat and we caught dozens of bonita, a variety of tuna, which we carefully smoked for days. That’s a picture of me with him in the yard in Ojai in 1954. He was a carpenter, born in Ireland, a very big, strong, but gentle man. He was about 6’4″ tall. My mom loved him as a father, and I loved him as a grandfather.

    My mom’s mother, Edith O’Neill, is in the album as Noni, which is the name she used for great grandchildren.

    We have even less about Fred Wurtenbach, my mother’s father, for whom I’n not even sure of the spelling. He was a journalist, he wrote for Pittsburgh’s largest newspaper, he had german ancestry, and he was a published poet — just a few poems published mainly in that same newspaper. He fought in WWI. That was not a successful marriage, however, so Noni left him and married JP O’Neill.

    Back to Palo Alto

    The movers left the small, dirty house full of boxes. It was a warm summer afternoon, September 8, 1982. I felt like magic happiness, one of the best days of my life, like I did as a kid on Christmas morning, like I did the first day of living in Innsbruck, like I did when we moved out of Mexico City to California. Everything was good.

    We were back in Palo Alto, living at 1599 Mariposa. We wouldn’t have to drive back to Suisse Drive in San Jose ever again. [Ed note: 25 years later, we never did, never have.] As the movers drove off I stood on the front porch and looked up the street to where I could see a patch of Stanford Campus across El Camino. Palo Alto Highschool was just 200 years to my right. We were finally back.

    it had been about 15 months since we left Escondido Village, on campus at Stanford, for Mexico City. At last we were back again, just half a mile from the townhouse at 100C in Escondido Village, but this time with a permanent job, and buying (although with one of the most aggressive equity sharing deals you’ll ever hear about) a house. Although there was a lot of work to do (moving, cleaning) we could also just walk out of our front door and take a walk through Palo Alto and Stanford.

    The kids felt it too, as much as Vange and I did. We’d made it back. They had the same sense of relief, the end to exile. Cristin of course was still just a baby, six months old, Laura had just turned 10, Sabrina was about to turn 9 and Paul was about to turn 7. The older three were about to enter Walter Hayes Elementary School, which would be their fourth school in 15 months. They were all looking forward to it, I think, or maybe I was just projecting my feelings.

    We were all looking forward to just living here, taking walks, normal life, with the feeling that we’d get back to that feeling of Escondido Village, when things were all good.

    The move to Mariposa was one of my finer moments. We’d given up living in Palo Alto before buying the house in San Jose — big mistake, that — but we kept driving back for shopping, visiting my parents, whatever excuse. Drives back to Palo Alto were like drives back to paradise from exile. But it took us almost an hour to go each way in the ancient yellow VW bus we called our car. And we always had to go back. I felt like a hero because by late Spring I decided we were going to live in Palo Alto, not San Jose, and I would just plain find a way. And I did. We had seen the Mariposa house on one of our brief breaks from exile. It looked like it had to be cheap, it was older, aged wooden sideboard, and it was smaller — only 1250 square feet, 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, and it was right up against the commuter train tracks in the back. It was listed by Tony Domenico.

    Tony said he could get us into that house. He never wavered. We had no equity and significant debt, and no down payment. But I had a good salary and with my Stanford MBA degree and all, I was marketable for one of Tony’s equity share deals. And that’s what we did: we bought the house for $190K including a $50K down payment and an amazingly expensive mortgage (1982 was a year of historic high interest rates, so our mortgage was a fixed rate 18%. The equity share deal meant that a couple of Stanford professors named Dutton put in all but $8K of the down payment, we paid the mortgage, and after four years we had to either buy them out for a profit or sell the house to pay them off. The whole assumed equity appreciation, and it worked out for us and them. We were able to move back to Palo Alto.

    So the next few days took a lot of work, but the world had changed. The worst of the work was when we discovered that the built-in breakfast nook had mouse grand central station built into it as well, but we moved in.