Friday, September 20, 2013

Life, Death, and Memories In Between

Returning from Canada this week, a quick trip to celebrate the lives of my precious living cousins Dollie (98) and Vi (soon to be 90) I learned of the death of my friend and neighbor of fifty plus years, Kay Gilliland. I've written a tribute here to Kay in the last year (and painted her twice, unsuccessfully) so Kay knew of the high esteem in which I held her. Still, her death leaves a hollow in my gut even as I celebrate her life. More about the Canadian cousins and the arduous journey via wheelchair in future weeks.

Some weeks ago a new Oakmont friend, Elaine Stanley, graciously invited me to be her guest on a history cruise on FDR's yacht, the Potomac, anchored in Jack London Square in Oakland.
Elaine is a volunteer docent on the ship. She instructed me to find a seat in the big black
leather chairs on the fan tail, a place FDR himself loved to sit. For me it was and will be a day imprinted on my heart forever: a magical day in which the sun glistened intensely on the bay waters, sailboats and merchant ships abounded, and I was flooded with over fifty years of memories of sucking in that view from my home in the hills.  Here is Elaine getting ready to lead a tour. My connection with Roosevelt was always personal. He was the only president I ever heard of growing up, the war having started when I was eleven. His two Seattle granddaughters attended my public grade school In Seattle, Magnolia, and we were once visited by the great man himself. My vision of him is sitting in the back seat of his convertible, slowly waving his hand at us (complete with cigarette holder) as the car slowly drove by. Of course none of us knew he was unable to walk. And once when Lee and I visited Warm Springs, Georgia, and I saw his actual leg braces  and crutches, my esteem tripled. Eleanor, meanwhile, has inspired me all my life. She is beloved in women's circles for her vision, her courage, her leadership and her life story. Catherine even has a cat named after her! Eleanor was afraid of water, having survived a near drowning in childhood, and though she entertained many times on the Potomac, she never sailed on her.  FDR on the other hand, treasured his time on board.  Kings, queens, and Churchill were among his guests, as well as his Scottie, Fala, of course. So I had a day of a living history tour, topped off by a trip under the Golden Gate. At one point the Oracle sailed right past us. A catamaran ten stories high on your starboard is not an every day occurrence. Circumnavigating back to Jack London square a huge Madsen swished by us. Altogether, a day of memory and joy.

No comments: