This date, June 2, is a very special one for my family.
On this date, in 1991, Jennifer and I became married in Dearborn, Michigan. Across the street from Ford World Headquarters. On this date, in 1992, my sister Ruth gave birth to a beautiful girl. A girl, Lily, an emerging young woman now, who creates beautiful things with her eyes, hands, and imagination. On this date, in 1998, my sister Hildy died at 42 from complications related to Lupus. She was funny and smart and cute.
A very special, connected date, indeed. So, I'll start with my marriage. It was not love at first site for Jennifer and me. I chased after her. She was ambivalent. I courted her. She warmed up. I fell for her and she, at last, relented. We've grown up together, My Rare Jen and I. We've been married for a while but we've been together longer-- half of our lives. She knew me before I knew myself. When I was just starting to really figure myself out and still had miles to go. She nudged me along in that process. I didn't know how to live with a woman. I didn't know how to care for someone else. I didn't know love beyond the superficial romantic kind. She taught me all of that. I knew her before she knew herself and, I think she'd agree, I helped her figure herself out a little. When you become married you create a new person. It's like having a baby. Like a baby, if you don't feed the marriage, it will die. Many marriages die and when they do, it's like a real, tangible person has died. Our marriage is no longer a baby. It's sort of a young adult. But we still need to love it and cherish it and feed it. Doing that is much easier now than it used to be. It kind of comes naturally. We have nothing to prove to each other. The only thing we have to do is continue enjoying each others' company.
Ruth's beautiful daughter, my niece Lily, is an emerging visual artist. Here's the kind of work she does (and she's just getting warmed up).
First a self-portrait:
Second, a woman of unknown origin daydreaming, staring into the gray-white sky, imprisoned by an insipid high school "Time Management Worksheet":
I don't know whether Lily's art will ever become "important" to the world, but it is extraordinarily important to me and to my children. It is another sign to us of the wondrous talent in our family.
Her father, Brad, is a brilliant visual artist. Here's an example of his work. One of my favorites "Terminal Bar" (1987):
Lily comes from the "Up yours!" branch of the Sherman/Olsen-Ecker family. Later this month she will graduate from high school a year early. Not because she's ambitious in the traditional way. Her grades aren't very good. Rather, she decided that the social scene and demands placed upon her and her ilk by the Public School Administration of Connecticutland USA weren't worth her time or effort. So, her ambition was to get done, get out, and get on with it. My Old Man, Lily's grandfather whom she never really got to know, and who also came from the Up Yours! branch, would be very proud. She is a beautiful flower.
And then there is my sister Hildy. What a tragedy. She is about the funniest person I ever knew. Hildy is eight years older than me. (Ruth is four years older than her and our other sister, Cindy, is four years younger. I'm the baby.) When we were kids, Hildy would contort her body and walk around like she was completely mental. In turn, I would contort my upper lip, folding it under to expose my upper teeth and gum, which would make me look like a total smiling crazy person along the lines of Jim Carrey's Fire Marshall Bill character (but this was way before that character was created). It scared the hell out of her. I loved that.
Hildy turned me on to Bob Dylan, Neil Young, CSN&Y, Leon Russell, and George Carlin. I still have a Dylan book of hers, "Bob Dylan, Approximately" on my home bookshelf. Hildy, who lived in Florida, would ask me to send her autumn leaves by mail from my home in the mid-Atlantic U.S. because she loved the fall so much. She loved celebrating holidays. She'd say "I'm in the spirit!" When I graduated from elementary school, she took me to the Livingston Mall where I chose a Peanuts comic book as her gift to me, at which time she declared, unilaterally (laughing) "Because I'm your favorite sister!"
Hildy had some very tough times in her life, her illness was only the worst part. I won't go into it. She and I had some pretty serious disputes in later years and we had a long period of not really talking to each other. Then, when my son was born, Hildy and I buried the hatchet and that was that. She died the following year. Her legacy, along with our memories of her laughter, humor, and just sheer lunacy that is difficult to describe, is her progeny: Daughters Regina and Lisa, who have the values of their mother and are seeing them through in their careers as a social worker and emerging lawyer, respectively: Hildy was a woman of compassion and caring and good, liberal politics. She was generous with her time. A school teacher (also a tradition in our family) and a businesswoman (ditto). A mom (thritto).
We are all connected.