This is Chapter 16 of my memoir: “The Imperfect Logic of the Heart.” The book is available on Amazon. I am reprinting it here chapter by chapter. Just a few more to go.
In order for my mother to continue to live in her condo it was necessary to refinance her mortgage. Convincing my mother to sign the necessary documents was not an easy task. Although I probably could have executed the documents using my durable power of attorney, my mother still had capacity, and I was not willing to avoid the discussion with her about money. She relented and we used the money to settle up the bills and much of my father’s debt.
After my mother’s death, I moved into the condo and began a long necessary remodel project. The plastic kitchen ceiling was now replaced with modern lighting. The counters all altered as well as the appliances modernized. The tub in the master bathroom was removed and converted into a walk in shower. The furniture was removed and replaced. The old stuff was all donated to a church along with my parents clothing. We saved a few items. My mother’s mink coat that no one wanted still hangs in the closet, but all the silver plated stuff was thrown away.
Both my kids have been divorced and remarried and both have their own children. So I am a grandfather but one with a little less status than my grandfathers had. Kids today may have three or four sets of living grandparents. No one in my youth spoke of “step grandparents” but it is what it is. On the plus side, we didn’t have Skype and essentially free telephones in the 50’s. My kids used to hang on for their lives without a helmet on the luggage rack of my English racer. They would slide beltless side to side in the back seat of our Chevy as we speeded along. They sat alone locked in the car as we ran into 7 Eleven for milk and they were not expected to know much as kids. We were not shamed into buying expensive toys that would give them an edge in kindergarten. They heard the Stones, not Mozart. We had cloth diapers and a diaper man not paper diapers with Velcro.
The first time I had an opportunity to spend some real time with my granddaughter, we were at a hotel swimming pool where my divorced son was doing his “visit.” My granddaughter was enjoying jumping into my arms in the pool over and over. Finally after about the tenth jump she looked at me and asked: “What did you say your name was?” I was saddened and delighted at the same time.
At Westin I was getting to know my little grandson. There is a special bond when you get to sleep alone with a toddler. I loved to lay inches from his sleeping head and watch and listen to him breathe. That wonderful careless sleep and porcelain skin. Is there a better blessing in the world than a healthy child? And is there a better sound than a child’s laughter?
I went back to work and spent a few days a week as corporate counsel for a lens coating company. I was a lawyer and papa to a young company. I was underpaid and underappreciated, but at least it was something to do. When the REIT was sold I had a large payday and felt safe taking a chance on moving to California. Before the move, I had an experience in Washington, DC I will never forget.
OMAHA, Neb.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Government Properties Trust, Inc. (NYSE: GPT) (“GPT”), a self-managed, self-administered real estate investment trust, and Record Realty Trust (ASX: RRT) (“Record Realty”), an Australian listed property trust today announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement whereby a subsidiary of Record Realty will acquire GPT for $10.75 per common share in cash, subject to a potential reduction by an amount not to exceed $0.08 per common share resulting from certain potential contingencies of GPT, and as otherwise provided in the merger agreement.
The transaction resulted in large fees for institutions involved. One of them was anxious to reward the board members of GPT. We were all invited to Washington, D.C. for a final dinner to celebrate. The party was held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Saturday evening. Since the hotel was walking distance to the Holocaust Museum I decided to visit. I had never been there before. Two things in the incredible museum particularly moved me. The first was the number of newsreels from the period, which highlighted just how insensitive Americans were to the blight of the Jews. The second and most moving to me was an actual railcar used for deportation of Jews to the camps. The number of people packed into the cars sickened me. I wrote a poem about it almost immediately afterward:
Track ripped from Treblinka balances
The mystical box car from Poland;
Once a 15ton transport to Genocide
Now restored to play another role.
Not 100 or more crushed lives
A trip; but two million a year
Travel sucked through a black hole
Of grief and screams, with just a few steps,
To be warned by souls still stirring:
That humanities train wrecks
Are not stalled cars on the freeway,
Slowing a trip to the bye and bye,
But massive strokes; conscience coronaries
That could cause our final solution.
And to Jews who enjoyed Bar mitzvah;
Sans tattoo number on arm;
Do not forget the Railcar Moment.
The next may not be a day
At the museum.
Stunned from the experience, I returned to the hotel and got ready for the evening extravagance. I dressed in my best suit and met the other board members in the lobby for our first round of cocktails before the dinner.
After several more drinks Barack Obama not yet officially a candidate for President entered the lounge area of the lobby and approached several tables for a meet and greet. He did not approach ours. I was already an Obama fan after reading an article in the New Yorker that told the story of how he had become Chairman of the Harvard Law Review as a law student there. I knew the politics involved with that achievement and was fascinated by his ability to mediate differences and still be liked.
All sense of propriety having been overcome by the effects of alcohol, I decided to get up and chase after our future President as he retreated from the lobby of the Mandarin. As he was about to exit accompanied by only one friend, I put both hands on his shoulders and stopped him long enough to probably be his worst nightmare of the day.
“Hello, you didn’t stop by our table but I wanted to say I am a huge admirer. I’m from Ohio and now living in Florida, two very important states for you if you run. I hope I can help.”
Stunned but gracious he said: “Thank you very much.”
I didn’t realize until much later what an ass I had been and today realize that similar conduct would have gotten me shot.
Later that evening our party was held in a private area of the hotel reserved for events like ours. There was a small bar area before the entrance to our reserved room where our future President and his wife sat enjoying conversation and a cocktail. I wanted to stop and apologize but I thought the best approach was to sneak by and say nothing.
Barbara’s and my relationship would not survive if we didn’t move in together. But forever cautious, I was not ready to abandon my Westin residence. Living together is different from dating, particularly dating long distance. I wanted to keep Westin available if things didn’t work out. Before the move I pursued a new hobby.
I love ITunes U and YouTube. Lifelong learning is my mantra and so one day when I thought it would be fun to paint, I went to YouTube to watch other people do it. I thought if I learned too much, it would take the fun out of it so I just jumped right in. I had no idea what to expect but knew it would be fun to push paint around on a canvas. I chose acrylics because they were cheaper and easier to clean up. I painted in the bathroom with the canvas on the floor. Why not. The cover of this book was one of my first paintings.
And then suddenly I was living in California. It is difficult to live in someone else’s house. You are surrounded with a collection of things that may or may not please you. I am always redecorating everything I see including people. Barbara’s house was decorated in a style not my own although it was comfortable and beautiful and of course, a representation of the books, music and art that were important to her. She had lived in the house since the mid 80’s. Her walls were filled with amazing Inuit art and her CD collection was complete with the best of classical and jazz. Her books were arranged in a patterned manner as only a former librarian could accomplish. But I am not ordered and arranged and I am most represented by a clash of contrasting primary colors so settling into this new environment was going to be a challenge.
Mountain View, California is the home of Google and is located in the heart of Silicon Valley. The demographics are far different from Florida or Ohio. There are over 20 languages spoken on the streets in downtown Mountain View and some of the most brilliant math and science young people in the world walk its streets. They are also very well paid and privileged by circumstances.
I am sure there are brilliant accountants and attorneys in other parts of the country who cannot find employment because the profession and hometown they chose has been altered by technology to their detriment. By contrast, there are not enough trained programmers and engineers to fill the hunger of the Silicon Valley.
I was trying very hard to be a Californian. I had my car shipped out with a little of what was left of the Florida things that I felt I couldn’t leave behind. Only what could fit in my car. I was prepared to begin fresh and was committed to call Florida yesterday’s story.
But I was not over Tamma’s death. There had been no real closure. I had not been properly comforted by friends, I had not attended a funeral and I was still feeling guilt. Barbara did all she could to make me comfortable but I was not ready. I found innocent things she did suddenly irritating and I’m sure she was often disappointed by my attitude. So my brief experiment ended and after a few short months. Once again my car sat filled with things on a large truck on a one way trip to Westin, Florida.
After I returned I spent months unraveling the mess Frank Speight had created in Belize and tried to recapture funds for one of his frauds that had involved some of my investors. I spent some time in Cleveland and renewed some friendships that I had let wane. But I missed Barbara. And Barbara Missed me.