“Was your Dad going to hike the CDT this year, if not for the pandemic?”
This is what Stephanie asked me, innocently enough, after dinner on June 10th. Whatever prompted her question is lost to everything that came after, but this is where the story begins for me.
I wasn’t sure. But it made me wonder whether his having a hiking partner might be a motivator. I was near the end of my monthslong landscaping projects, and this seemed like a good alternative to finding a job.
So I texted him the idea and he seemed intrigued. But the following night we spoke on the phone and he decided that the risk of contracting the coronavirus (at his age) was just too great. So no hike. At the time I was secretly relieved because when I first proposed the idea, I hadn’t fully wrapped my head around the reality of leaving Stephanie for months at a time, of forsaking the comfort of our backyard gardens and nightly barbecues and dips in the pool.
Stephanie’s mom Chris has a childlike fascination with carrot cake. It’s a taste she associates with the United States, something she tried for the first time over 35 years ago while recovering at a hospital. Now, whenever she visits, carrot cake is on the itinerary. She’s not picky—a humble square from the grocery store will do. But this year, since she arrived from France on her birthday, I made her carrot cake cupcakes from scratch.
Last week, my Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Barnette (née Lasher) passed away, just 5 days shy of her 94th birthday. For much of my life I knew her formally as Mary Elizabeth Myers (that’s how we addressed our Christmas and birthday thank-you notes), using the last name she acquired from a short second marriage. When my mother and her sisters moved her to an assisted-living facility several years ago, she surprised them by asking to revert to her married name from their father, Kenneth Ashel Barnette, who had passed away when my mother was still in high school. It was something they’d hoped she’d have done decades earlier, but it was all the more touching for her to do so at the outset of her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Friends and family affectionately knew her “Mary Lib”, but to her six grandchildren she was Grandmommy.
In a break from the tradition of our annual holiday pilgrimage to Austin, this year my whole family and Stephanie’s mom came to celebrate Christmas with us in San Francisco. At one point we were eight people sleeping under one roof and sharing a single bathroom—and we’re all still talking to each other! We spent a lovely week together and we look forward to seeing everyone again soon!
I figured it might be important to post something about it here for those of you who don’t also follow Stephanie on Facebook—where the news was initially disseminated, far and wide.
In common parlance: we got married! Last Friday, amidst the rain and the Giants Parade and Halloween, the two of us went down to San Francisco City Hall, filled out the requisite paperwork, and had a poignant ceremony lasting just over two minutes. The tripod was our only witness, recording the brief event to share with our families in Texas, France, and beyond. Though we would have loved for them to be there with us, it just didn’t make sense for everyone to come so far for so little. (Don’t worry, we’re going to try to get the families together in France next summer!) Afterwards we went up to the fourth floor of City Hall and took photos of each other in our new spiffy duds for over an hour. Et voila! We were married.