LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WILLS FAMILY THROUGH MARALYS' MEMOIRS: A CIRCUS WITHOUT ELEPHANTS AND A CLOWN IN THE TRUNK

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

IS THE AMERICAN EXPERIMENT FINALLY IN DANGER?



                               

                              By Robert V. Wills      



      I wonder how many Americans realize the scope of Donald  Trump’s growing control of the American government, meaning all three branches of our political system.

     The Constitution set up three branches of the Federal government, relying on checks and balances between them to avoid a dictatorship or imperial monarchy. The citizens elect both the Executive leadership and the Legislative members, then the joint action of the Executive and Legislature (Senate) appoints the Judiciary. The theory has always been that the process would avoid dictatorship through the division of power.

     I suspect that Donald Trump is more of a megalomaniac than a political strategist or a political historian - -all reports are that he was a poor student - - but the American government is now in a strange and ominous state: Trump rules the Executive Branch as an autocrat, without guidance, counsel, or restriction. His appointments, including all Department and Bureau heads, are all Trump lackies and devotees, often devoid of experience or qualifications. They hold office only until they disappoint or embarrass Donald.

     But now he literally controls the Senate because his hillbilly toady, Mitch McConnell, will not allow a vote on any measure that Trump doesn’t green light. And without the Senate, Congress is nothing but a noisy, angry mob of biannual wannabees called Representatives, who can rant, rail, and threaten impeachment - - but not  pass one law....

     That leaves the Judiciary. Trump is no lawyer, but he is directed by a cadre of ultraconservative advisers who are helping him pack the Federal Courts with right wing ideologues - -who will hold office FOR LIFE...Given enough time, like four more years, Trump will have colored the Federal Judiciary a bright red, and the triad will be complete if the Senate stays Republican.

     I’m not a political historian, either, but I wonder if the U.S. has ever been in this much danger of a dictatorship. Even FDR had no  luck in packing and controlling the Judiciary. He was frustrated by the checks and balances, but he was not a fanatical, dishonest megalomaniac who would run  the American Ship of State right onto the rocks.

     This blowhard  rabble-rouser will, if kept in  the White House as Tweeter-and-Commander-in-Chief for four more years. Pray to whichever God you choose that he stumbles and falls by November, 2020.

       (Amen.  I couldn't agree more with Rob's thoughts. Maralys Wills)                                      

         


                                                                                                                  






















Saturday, June 8, 2019

A "SMASHING" DINNER SHOW





You never know when an ordinary evening will become an unplanned adventure. 

As Rob and I and our son, Kirk, headed for a fish dinner at H-Salt, the weirdness of the evening came to us by degrees.  Just as we turned into the small street that led to the equally small restaurant,  we saw the fire engine.  A huge vehicle, it seemed to take up most of the tiny parking area.  And then we saw the cop car, parked in the handicap spot we normally call ours. 

As Rob steered past and around the fire engine,  the yellow tape came into view. And suddenly there was the rest . . . our nice fish and chips shop with its front plate-glass  window gone, and the building’s front wall severely bashed and leaning precariously inward.  Police tape and shattered glass led toward the interior, a different version of the  Yellow Brick Road. Among the mess stood cops and firemen. 

Well . . . there’s no dinner here tonight,  I thought,  at which Rob called out to a policeman,  “Are they open?” 

“Yeah, they’re open,” said the cop, a decent fellow acting as a good citizen for an ailing business.  

From the back seat, Kirk added laconically,  Wide open.” 

I couldn’t help it; I burst out laughing. 

As we emerged from the car, we asked, “What happened?”

A nearby fireman answered. “A woman hit the accelerator instead of the brake.”

“She okay?” 

He pointed.  “She’s sitting inside. Pretty much all right.  Even the car isn’t that bad. It’s the restaurant that took the hit.” 

With some trepidation, we entered.  But the area in front of the cash register was out of commission, with its carpet of shattered glass walled off by yellow tape.  Still, the Chinese owners had managed to do their work behind the melee, taking our order from a different counter. 

It was time to find our table.  But in our path was an ancient woman sitting on a chair,  head down, staring blankly at the floor . . . while nearby, looking years younger, was her four-wheel walker.   The woman herself seemed to be in her eighties.   

 As we parked at an undisturbed table off to one side and ate our usual crispy fish and zucchini, we were treated to an interesting scene: what happens after someone bashes in the front of a going business. We recalled that customers often waited for their orders by sitting in metal chairs backed up to that now-destroyed wall.  “They’d have had some serious spinal injuries,” Rob said, “knocked off their chairs and across the room.”  I knew he was thinking, like I was, Thank God no one was there this evening. 

For starters,  the original fire truck departed, and another,  double the size, parked in the nearby alley.  Some two dozen firemen (or so it seemed),  emerged, carrying tools, lumber, nails and saws.  As they were setting up, the luckless woman driver managed to stand and wheel her way out of the restaurant. 

“How will she get home?”  I wondered aloud.  “Will they give her  back her car?” 

“If they do,” Kirk said dryly,  “she’ll be right back inside.” 

An observation that sent me into another round of laughter.  Without Kirk, the adventure would have lacked a certain crucial element.

For the rest of dinner we watched the noble employees of the town of Orange performing at their noble best.  They swept up glass; they removed twisted chairs; they installed an  ingenious brace to hold up an ailing ceiling; they constructed a device from which the owners could seal off their business during the night. They went about their job with industry,  experience, and obvious good will.  One of the firemen even came to our table and explained what was going on.  “We do this all the time,”  he said, and it was clear he spoke the truth.  “We had to pull a metal chair out from under the car’s hood.”   

“Why didn’t those little parking-lot bumpers out front stop her?”  I asked. I was thinking, They’re cement. They’ve stopped me a few times.

Rob said, “Looks like she ran over two of them—one for each wheel.”      

“For some cars, those bumpers are just a reminder,” he said. “We’ve seen drunk drivers in a parking lot bounce over eight or nine of those things in a row.  You’d think after awhile they’d notice.”     

Once finished, Kirk went outside, where he and the helpful fireman stood by our car, talking.  After Rob and I got in, the man signaled that Rob was to roll down the window.  “Come back next week,” he said,  “we’ll try to have twice the show.” 

With that, Kirk said,  “I’ll never forget this one.”     

Friday, May 24, 2019

PELOSI MAY BE GETTING THE JOB DONE


PELOSI MAY BE GETTING THE JOB DONE


In a way that nobody has done before, Nancy Pelosi is getting under our president’s skin . . .

While she remains calm and poised and describes him in accurate terms, he twitters and rages.  

But it isn’t just Pelosi that’s got him jumping off the high board—it’s also those  inquiries from the House of Representatives.  We have to ask ourselves, What is he hiding—besides those eight years when, according to the New York Times, he “lost” over one billion dollars and paid no taxes?  

Trump’s reactions are turning increasingly abnormal. 

Instead of Wednesday’s White House meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi over a possible bill on infrastructure, the president entered the room for five minutes, never sat down, and declared, “I won’t talk about legislation while an inquiry is going on.”  When he called an “impromptu” press conference, his podium signs were already made.

Yesterday he called Rex Tillerson  (past CEO of ExxonMobil, past Secretary of State—who speaks both English and Russian),  “Dumb as a Rock.”  It seems Tillerson  gave some 8 hours of testimony—to whom, I’m  not sure.  

In the midst of all this, yesterday Trump called himself “A stable genius.” 

Really?  

As his breakdown gets worse, the tweets will get crazier.  Is it possible we’re about to get lucky . . . that we’re seeing the beginning of the end of his presidency?     

Monday, May 13, 2019

HOW TRUMP IS INFLICTING MORTAL WOUNDS ON BLUE AMERICA


                                         By Robert V. Wills


    

The Democrats breathed a big sigh of relief when they took over the House of Representatives in November. Whew! Now they could stop Trump in his tracks by controlling the Federal purse strings and blocking his legislative agenda.

Nice try. But no cigar. Trump isn’t trashing the Obama legacy and the liberal agenda through legislation. He’s doing it by two other strategies, by Executive Orders aimed at Federal agencies that control society and the environment, and by packing the Federal courts, which make or break laws that Congress is supposed to be passing, or passed years ago.

While the Democrats in the House create endless publicity by holding hearings and issuing subpoenas, Trump’s Executive Orders have quietly directed  all of the important agencies that control the environment, consumer protection, the airwaves, education, voting rights, health, and commerce in a direction 180 degrees from what Obama established and what Blue America campaigns for.

The Federal courts are jammed with litigation filed by social, political, and environmental organizations like the ACLU, Common Cause, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Planned Parenthood. Injunctions and Court Orders have slowed some of the Trump onslaught, but not all of it, and the litigation will go on for years.

But Trump and his right wing advisers know that the buck stops in the Federal courts, not the House of Representatives, so with a Trump-aligned Senate and some ultraconservative lawyers at his side, he is quietly packing  the Federal Courts with lifelong appointments of right wing ideologues who will shape our social and political landscape for decades, while members of Congress come and go like hucksters in endless campaigning.

Everyone knows that Trump has already had a powerful influence on the U.S. Supreme Court, with two right wing appointments to join Bush’s two (Alito and Roberts), and that the Court’s future temperament depends on the longevity of “Notorious Ginsberg.” But what the public doesn’t know is that while SCOTUS is the ultimate authority on Federal law, the real seat of Federal law power rests in the 13 Federal Courts of Appeal, where + or – 179 appellate judges decide something like 50,000 cases a year.

The Federal Courts of Appeal are essentially the real U.S. “Supreme” Federal Court because SCOTUS reviews only + or – 140 cases each year and takes on only cases where the Courts of Appeal had conflicting decisions, or the issue is critical.

In two years Trump has already appointed more than 20% of the + or – 179 Circuit Judges. I just read a summary of some of their decisions and the Trump judges have already demonstrated a sharp right lean in their written opinions.

If Trump remains in office two more years - - a big “if” with his mental  state - - his effect on the Federal judiciary - - and the U.S. political and social temperament - - will last half a lifetime. In fact, in another two years I don’t think I will even recognize the America that won WWII and resettled a war-torn world under leaders like Eisenhower and Kennedy.

                                                                



Monday, April 29, 2019

TO HUG OR NOT TO HUG


TO HUG OR NOT TO HUG . . .



That is the question.

Today you’ll never get an answer just by “hanging around and watching.”  Or reading the news. It’s more complicated than that. Poor old Biden . . . he’s in a mess he doesn’t quite understand. But does anybody?   

Acceptability of hugging depends on a bunch of things—your age, your gender, and the age and gender of the hugee. 

If you happen to be a great grandfather, you are definitely not a hugger, especially of other males.  Instead you stick out your hand. I’ve never seen Rob hug a same-age guy . . . and only with an embarrassed grin does he accept the hugs of his grandsons. Yet he thinks nothing of grabbing the arm of an attractive young female. 

I admit it—I’m a hugger.  And so are most of my women friends – but not all.  It’s up to me to discern who among them is or is not.  I’m also happy to hug long-friend males, of whatever age, but they have to extend their arms first.  I love it that my sons and grandsons are also huggers.  From them, in fact, I get more such arms-out affection, by far, than I do from my husband.

Here’s today’s brand-new rule:  young males hug each other, as I just observed at a large, twenty-somethings birthday party.  The male host hugged every one of his arriving male friends . . . but not necessarily the females. Frankly, I’m not sure about that rule—young male to girl-friend of other young male. 

Well, so I don’t have a “fix” on all the rules. But if you want to see part of today’s answer to who’s allowed to hug whom, it’s on the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times.  In general, like the French, we’ve become more of a hugging and air-kissing society.

Except when we haven’t . . . except when the # Me Too is operating and nobody is allowed in our space. 


Friday, April 5, 2019

OUR BUCKING BRONCO CRUISE


OUR BUCKING BRONCO CRUISE


Rob and I signed up for a cruise, not a rodeo.  We supposed we could walk across our living room in Oceania’s Vista Suite without lurching from doorway to chair to table . . . without staggering from bed to bathroom . . . without leaning heavily into the sink as we brushed our teeth . . . without gripping the closet door in a kind of spasm as we lifted out a pair of slacks. We quickly learned you dared not pull off a long-sleeved shirt without sitting down first. Four seconds standing up with both hands buried in sleeves could spell disaster. The same sounds kept bursting out of each of us . . . “Oh!  Oh!” or in Rob’s case, an additional, “Damn! Son of a Bitch!” 

“Mom,” said daughter Tracy on the third day, “your place is making me seasick.” 

Well, that’s what we got for signing up for the luxurious Vista Suite at the prow end of the ship, with its well-appointed living room and gracious veranda adorned with table and chairs. Rob sat out there once, in  a hurricane, clinging desperately to the paper he was trying to read.  From that day on the chairs and table were secured with rope tied to the ship’s rails, and nobody ever sat there again.

Still, the nineteen days on the Oceania cruise had plenty of positive events, and even some great moments.  The trip was Tracy’s 60th birthday gift, and included her Paul, plus son Chris and Betty-Jo and son Kenny and Melanie.  While the eight of us all convened for some lunches and each night for dinner, in between everybody did his own thing: among us we read some nine books and about thirty newspapers. The exercise aficionados worked out in the gym on treadmills and stationery bikes, or hiked the perimeter of the ship—when it wasn’t dipping and curtseying like, um. . . the Mayflower.

The itinerary included on-shore events relished by most of our gang: electric bicycles on which they traversed most of an island, stopping only for swims and a luxury luncheon; an ATV mud-ride, so exhilarating they couldn’t stop raving. And, more modestly for Rob and me, island explorations by car, glass-bottomed boats, and by a submersion submarine. Even our Tahiti hotel included a “Lagoonarium,” where we swam in the lagoon with hundreds of tropical fish—more than most of us had ever seen in one place.   

Back on ship, Ken and Tracy competed with each other in spectacular games of ping pong—with shots retrieved from the far edges of the table or occasionally missed altogether when the ball soared away in the wind. A number of points involved so many incredible saves that Rob and I were breathless, just watching.  Every game worked its way to a near-end tie, and eventually the two played some twenty-plus games. 

Meanwhile, other family members competed in shuffleboard or card games like Golf, or that ancient game of cards and pegs, Cribbage.    

The Oceania Regatta had some great special days . . . a carnival where the passengers competed on deck for prizes in such events as speed-dressing mannequins, sniffing and identifying various containers of different smelly items, tossing rings over bottles, maneuvering sticks into other bottles, and identifying geographic locations from maps. The morning event became a circus, with contestants racing around from one event to another. Eventually, the hardest-driving among them ended up with fistfuls of tickets whose numbers were drawn for decent prizes. Rob and I got there late—but just in time to see that, as always, the name Wills has a secret meaning (“mad competitor”), so of course our gang won some nice stuff.

Which brings me to Rob, Kenny, and me . . . and “Team Trivia.”  Within two days we’d become part of an eight-person team, “The Fun Bunch,”  and every afternoon at 4:30, rock and roll be damned, Rob and I and Kenny appeared in the Regatta lounge to probe our brains for answers to 20 assorted questions. Happily, we’d joined some smart people, including Marshall and wife Lucy, who seemed to know something about nearly everything. Thanks to Marshall, Lucy, Kenny, and Rob . . . and scattered answers from the rest of us. . . among the fifteen or more teams, we ended up in third place three times and first place twice.  (You’re bound to do well with such as these--two fact-driven lawyers, a theater aficionado, and an engineer.)  

The rest of the cruise was all food.  Huge breakfasts, plentiful (and delicious), choices for lunch, gargantuan dinners. For Rob and me—especially me--accustomed now to two meals a day, the food became a negative.  I simply couldn’t respond well when my dinner plate (usually in a specialty restaurant), or even someone else’s plate, overflowed with a slab of nearly-raw meat.  I kept trying to duck all that surplus eating, though I was too often swept away—and on to stomach aches. Reading this, other family members will respond with a boo/hiss, telling me the food was fantastic and nobody forced me to swallow any of it.

Okay, then: agreed that Oceania has great food.  Everyone but me and Paul (who exercised faithfully), came home with extra pounds.  My weight stayed the same, but it took several days to get over the stomach aches. At heart I must not be a cruiser.

The exceptional good news: given a gazillion balance-rattling jostles, neither Rob nor I ever fell down . . . and our suite was so far from everywhere (all dining rooms were on  the stern, a city block away), we did a lot of walking. We had a cheerful butler who brought us whatever we required—breakfast in the suite or canapés for the cocktail hour. Beyond him were waiters and servers in the dining rooms from every imaginable country, but with one thing in common—all were so much fun and so gracious, a number quickly became family friends. Rob  and I already miss them. 

Plus it was great being with all those fun and funny family members. Our late-afternoon cocktail parties in our ever-heaving suite were highlights of the trip. Also highlights were about six other couples who became good friends and sometimes joined us for canapés and drinks.   

The final highlight was arriving home to a house that was actually standing still.    


Saturday, February 23, 2019

IN MEM0RIAM: OUR PAL, OLLIE






To all of us, Ollie was a movie dog. 

The world seemed to think so, too.  Everywhere Tracy took him,  people stopped her to exclaim over him . . . over the fact that his coloring was so unique . . . over the fact that he seemed more than just another pet, that he bordered on being a tiny, four-legged person. It didn’t hurt that Ollie never met a human he didn’t like. 

He was a small Cavashon, black and white, peeking out through one black eye. But what set him apart was his way with people. He assumed Rob and I were his relatives, and  behaved as if we needed welcoming on each new occasion.  Miraculously, he knew we’d arrived at Tracy and Paul’s before we quite knew it ourselves.  Even as we approached the front door we could hear him on the other side, whining and yipping, as though to say, Get the door open, please, I need to see you. And true to his loving nature, he wiggled and wagged as we cleared the entrance, soaked up the feel of our hands on his curly-haired body, then rolled over for a last stroking of his belly.

For seven years, he greeted us thus.  We dared not move deeper into the house until we acknowledged that yes, he was our long-lost cousin.  Then he trotted to the couch and snuggled down next to Tracy.   

As far as we could tell, he never cared much for dogs. 

Besides his overflowing enthusiasm, Ollie had tricks. He was clever enough to batter open the plastic ball which contained special treats.  He sat when anyone said “sit,”  he rolled over when ordered to do so, and he lay quite still when someone said, “bang  bang.”

Most of this was in place before Tracy’s Paul arrived.  Once Paul was there for good, we observed the blooming of a new relationship.  Ollie knew a special person when he met one. Before the first month ended, Ollie was following Paul everywhere, upstairs and down, sometimes waiting for attention, but more often expressing his eagerness for their nightly walk.  He’d staked out his time as eight-fifteen, and though we’re fairly sure he never wore a watch, each night from that instant on, he sat on his haunches near Paul, gazing up at him with a look that defined the word “adoration.”  That expression is  how I’ll always remember Ollie.  It turns out he even came to warn Tracy, once, when he thought Paul was in trouble.  

Today, around noon, Ollie died.  We can’t go into detail, but at heart he was a delicate little creature, and it turned out this was a digestive problem gone wrong . . . and all because of a smoked pork bone from a high-end pet store—which we didn’t know was deadly for dogs.   

Ollie’s whole family is devastated.  None of us are dogs, to be sure, but Ollie thought we were.    


Monday, February 18, 2019

A SHOCKING MOMENT FOR TRUMP





For those who might have missed this . . . ! 

Last week, Mike Pence was in Munich for a European Council meeting.  The large audience included heads of state from our most important allies—Germany, France, and others, though not Britain. 

The television news shows Pence arriving at a podium to address the crowd.  With the hint of a smile he says, “I bring you greetings from the President of the United States!”

He pulls back and waits, expecting applause. 

Instead what he gets is silence.  Total silence.  Not a hand raised, not a murmur. It was as though the Europeans had all left—or conspired in advance to snub the president. Rob and I had never seen anything like it.

Without comment, the evening news shifted to another topic. But we learned later that the group gave Vice President Joe Biden a standing ovation. Clearly, America’s current standing in Europe has dropped to zero. 

It made us wonder once more—why did so many Americans accept Trump? Long before he finished campaigning, we all knew what he was: a womanizer (his “pussy” comments), a racist (his earlier refusals to rent to blacks), a lousy businessman (his six bankruptcies), a liar (his easily-checked falsehoods), a narcissist (his focus on himself), a cheat (his earlier failures to pay workers).  The more we learned about him—even from his co-author, Tony Schwartz--the more we knew the truth; the man had no core values.  At heart he believed in nothing . . . except himself.  Except a desperate need to "win." 

Lately, Rob and I have asked ourselves: How DID he get elected?

The answer, we decided, lies with four groups, each with only one, sometimes two, issues:  A) The evangelicals—we’re anti-abortion, anti separation of church and state.  Non-religious himself, Trump professed to stand for both.  B)  The Rich—we want our money and we want still more. As they imagined he might, the prez came through for them. C) The Deep South—we don’t like blacks, and he doesn’t either. Trump’s only clear focus has been to get rid of everything Obama did or stood for.  D) The fly-over states—we’ve been ignored by everyone, and we don’t like non-whites or liberals. Trump keeps reassuring them he’s one of them.  They clap for him and he claps for himself.

With all the support he still gets from these lopsided groups, only a few break-aways  have realized they voted for a hollowed-out man. A man whose insides are empty.

To our amazement, Ann Coulter finally figured it out. Just yesterday she said, “The National Emergency is that our president is an idiot.”   


                                                             

Thursday, January 17, 2019

WHO ELECTED SEAN HANNITY AND ANN COULTER TO RUN OUR GOVERNMENT?


           


President Trump did.  (See Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2019--Pg. A-6). As verified in The Times, that's who our president listens to--plus his Machiavellian aide Stephen Miller.  

Now that most of the grownups, such as Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense secretary James Mattis have been drummed out of the administration, Trump is surrounded by “yes” men . . . so he’s turned instead to Hannity and Coulter to strengthen his backbone. It’s these two, among others, who have mocked him as “weak”—the most derogatory term anyone could use for this narcissist.  The country now witnesses a near-inhuman drive to prove those two detractors wrong. Here is a man who would take the stings of an entire country before he’d accept the criticism of two spiteful souls who have called him “weak.”

Still . . . there IS  a solution, if only the Senate majority weren’t so afraid of Trump’s “base.”  (Another few weeks of shutdown, and the “base” is likely to fade away). The Republican Senate, with agreement from the House,  must send Trump a bipartisan bill calling for an unconditional end to the shutdown.

Trump will veto this, of course.

With most of the Senate in agreement, they will vote to override the veto.  The Government will re-open and the Senate will emerge as heroes.  And God knows, they haven’t enjoyed that role in a very long time. 

With all the media talk of solutions to a devastating stalemate, almost none have suggested the Republican Congress can end the impasse once and for all—if only they summon the will to do it. 

There must be millions of Americans who wake in the middle of the night—as I do--with a sense of horror that our country is quite literally falling apart.  In my dreams I hear myself screaming to our Senators . . . Do what you have to do!   And do it NOW!  









Thursday, January 10, 2019

A HELLUVA PARTY




A HELLUVA PARTY


            It all began in July, when I mentioned casually to Tracy that our next wedding anniversary, on January 3,  would be our 70th.    

            Her response was anything but casual. “Oh, Mom,” she said with high enthusiasm, “I’m really glad you mentioned this early.  Usually you tell us the day before. Now we have time to do something.” 

            The something turned into a production that was so above and beyond, that Bob and I will revel in it forever.  Everyone in the family played a part—and indeed it took a family army to make it all happen . . . which in total produced an extraordinary event.

            The overall Captain was Tracy.  Together she and Paul located a caterer who created pulled pork, roasted chicken, beans and salad—most cooked in a spectacular oven on his property.  But that was just the beginning.  She found a special bakery and ordered a cake.  From then on, the rest of the family geared up and the event began to swell, like pancake batter spooned onto a griddle. 

While initial plans were for “family-only,”  to be held at Betty-Jo and Chris’s,  our kids decided (thank heavens), “Hey, they see us all the time. Let’s include friends,” and with that the party grew beyond the confines of anyone’s house—and instead Tracy secured the social hall of Tustin’s Presbyterian Church.  (A little side note here:  One of my good friends confessed,  “If you hadn’t included friends, I was going to crash it anyway.”) 

The rest was done by elves who worked semi-secretely, mostly out of sight of Bob and me.  One of them was Dane, now head of Video Resources, who gathered various family seniors to come and speak for a short, but professionally-edited video.  Since Bob and I had not been given a preview, it was as much a surprise to us as everyone else. With most of our immediate family up there on a huge screen, mainly talking about us, we loved it.

Dane also brought a professional sound system for that night, when various family members provided “off the cuff” remarks directly to the audience--including Bob and me,  who were anything but unprepared.  Unlike everyone else, we’d both written our statements weeks earlier.  Bob did his sitting down, adding so many fascinating-- but additional--details about his early life (before me),  that some of us wondered when, if ever, he’d get around to mentioning his marriage. 

As for me (who preferred to stand so I could see all the faces), some divergence crept in, but I mostly covered the conflicting aspects of the smartest, but most unpredictable personality I’ve ever known.  And trust me, I should have been prepared for a surprising life.  Bob was never ordinary, but a brilliant oddball right from that first dance at a Stanford Jolly-up.  

The next day he invited me to go on a "beach party."--which, as it turned out, consisted of him, me, and an acquaintance with a Model T who was persuaded to drive us-- while he, like an English butler, drove staring straight ahead, but saying nothing. When I protested about this screwy arrangement, Bob said, "Of course it's a party. I've brought grape juice, cheesy crackers, and we're going to the beach."   

Who else would summon you from your dorm by standing under your window and whistling--like he was calling his dog  to come out and play?  .    

I’m not sure either of us offered keys to the success of a long marriage—except that, despite the tragedies that everyone knows about, and some mostly-hidden conflicts between the two of us, here we both are, still married.  And we couldn’t be happier that we’ve still got each other.

And glad we are—that the members of our immediate family, for reasons beyond just us, are terrific people, all married to winners . . . who in turn have produced their own winners, and ultimately some great grand-kids whom we cherish.  And hey, in that fourth generation we’ve got as wide a variety of disparate personalities as you could ever gather in one spot—including a twelve-year old who knows ten times more about world geography (and other stuff), than I do, and a four-year-old who willingly passed out little dishes of cake to the guests—until someone observed that she was first taking a bite out of each serving before she handed it over.    

As a family,  and as individuals,  so many contributed to the evening that I will surely leave someone out.  Beyond General Tracy came Chris and Betty-Jo, who, almost secretly, gathered table settings, but also little pots of flowers, and most remarkable still, small photos of us for each table.  Their grand-kids must have spent hours wrapping silverware in napkins and tying each of 120 items with a ribbon and bow.  Only later did we learn that Betty-Jo woke at four a.m. that day, worried that her little pots of flowers, left outside, might freeze, so she got up to bring them in from the cold.  Thus ending her night.    

Tracy’s Paul, plus his two daughters, plus friend Peter, spent the entire evening in the church kitchen, warming the dropped-off food—four kinds—ladling it into serving dishes, mixing two kinds of punch,  arranging the serving table, and making sure the food never ran out.

Ken’s Melanie did so much extra cooking of various canapés—most of it out of our sight—that she earned, once again, the title of hostess with the mostest. (We’ve been to her house in Virginia many times, and can vouch for her quiet but spectacular success with anything edible.)  As another gift to us, Melanie and Ken also secured the evening’s steel-drum music. 

It was Dane again who gathered four good photos of Bob and me, carefully chosen by Tracy and granddaughter Christy, to massively enlarge into stand-alone posters, which helped decorate the social hall.

And speaking of Christy . . . knowing that Bob and I love crossword puzzles, she somehow found the time and expertise to create a long crossword solely devoted to events in our lives. Though it was both clever and difficult, (the leading clue was, “The trip they’d agree was their favorite,” while the answer was, “impossible to say,”) numerous guests proudly showed us they’d managed to complete it.   

Meanwhile, the day of, Tracy, Betty-Jo, Chris, Christy, Melanie, and various great grand-kids, turned the social hall into a magic kingdom, with every detail covered. I remembered waking one night, days earlier, and wondering if they’d forget silverware and paper napkins.  What a joke!   Our kids were dozens of steps beyond such mundane concerns.

The evening itself was beyond anything Bob or I could have predicted.  Our kids dictated that we should sit like royalty—make that a king and queen--at a head table where our subjects could drop by to visit.  Which nearly every one of our 110 guests did. 

Meanwhile, how were we to get food?  Two of our great grand-kids, Nora and Malena, not only parked themselves at our table, but kept jumping up to go fetch us servings of dinner.  They seemed fairly anxious that we were well supplied.

As I come to the close of this longish story, it needs to be said that relatives and good friends came from long distances to be part of the event.  Among them were Geoff and Amber and great-grand-kids from Eureka, long-standing family friends from Tucson, our son Kenny and Melanie from Virginia, granddaughter Juliette from Raleigh, North Carolina, and farthest of all, Tracy’s daughter, Jamie, husband Mike, and the baby of the clan, Eva, all the way from Amsterdam. 

In some ways, you could call Eva the mascot of the evening.  Only seven months old, Eva has a crown of dark hair (more than I've got ), and was the evening’s pass-around pack,  never crying, but sometimes offering her Queen Elizabeth wave. 

The best I can say is, it’s not always easy being 91 and 89, respectively.  But the anniversary party—at least for that night—made it all worthwhile.