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.
At the end of July, Stephanie accompanied me on a business trip to San Diego. We booked a later flight home on the Saturday after my meetings so we could visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park—the largest state park in California, and the second-largest in the country. On the two hour drive out there, it occurred to us that we’d probably be crossing the Pacific Crest Trail. At that point in time, Dad was on the trail way up in Oregon, one day past Crater Lake. Stephanie compared the PCT map I was using to track him with our location in Google Maps and realized we were almost there.
Driving slowly along Country Route S22, it didn’t take long to find the trail markers. We got out and took a few pictures. Like our backpacking trip in Kings Canyon, it was another neat Dad was here moment. But even cooler was realizing that he had used his SPOT to transmit his nightly campsite just before the road. It had been only his 5th night on the trail, at mile 101. So really it was more like: Dad slept here! That made it feel even more special. We’ll probably be doing this for the rest of our lives—crossing the PCT on some road trip, stopping to pay our respects, and thinking back on Dad’s incredible feat.