Friday, May 29, 2020

Happy Friday

Yes, in spite of what this week has brought, both personally and in the nation: loss, grieving, and uncertainty, I still want to hold out the hope for a happy Friday.This was taken April 24, 2020.  I will hold this family memory close.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Philip Williams – 1926-2020

Dad and Tupper in 1954

He loved animal jokes. Take any story about a priest, a rabbi, and a pastor walking into a bar and recast it with a fox, a squirrel, and a raccoon, and he’d be rolling on the floor. There was something about the gentle world of “The Wind in the Willows” and the adventures of Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Woods that told us what a gentle and humble man he was: giving, loving, flawed, human, and who tried his best to do what he could for his family, his friends, and his community.

There are so many memories that he created with us. Teaching his children how to sail, taking us to baseball and football games, teaching us how to play golf, taking us skiing, sharing the little things that brought him joy, and giving of himself in ways that we didn’t realize until we were older, and setting examples for his children and how to raise their own children. Yes, of course we had our struggles; no family or marriage lasts nearly seventy-two years without them. He had disappointments and made mistakes. He would be the first to admit them. But through it all, the basic goodness of my father withstood it and came through to the other side.

He and Mom raised four children who could not be any more different from each other, and yet there’s something of him in all of us aside from the DNA. I know that for myself, my love of a good story about sailing and an appreciation of a quiet afternoon listening to the Tigers on the back porch or taking a walk to go bird-watching came from his side of the family. It melded well with the appreciation for jazz and certain art forms that I got from Mom to become what I am. I know my path through life probably wasn’t what he envisioned, but through it all I knew I had his support, guidance, and love.

He loved us all, even when we mocked him for it. In the middle of one our many raucous family “discussions,” he would plead with us to “love one another,” as if that would solve all our problems. We even found a sign that hung over our kitchen fireplace with that plea on it. But I think he gets the last word because when you get right down to it, that’s all he ever wanted for us. He welcomed the new members of the family: husbands, wives, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with nothing but unconditional love.

I am glad I was able to see him a few weeks ago through the dance of pixels and electrons of Zoom. All of us were there on the screen, and Dad looked pretty good for someone in his condition.  He waved to us and said he loved us. I hoped against hope that it would not be the last time I saw him; that after this was all over I would get to be with him and share the two books I sent him: “Swallows and Amazons,” the books from his childhood that he shared with me and taught me to love good writing and sailing, and the “Field Guide to the Birds” by Roger Tory Peterson, the book that we shared when we walked through the woods or watched them at the bird-feeders. Those books were on the shelf in his room when he slipped away. That was as close as I could be to him, and it was all I could ask.

One last thing: Hey, Dad, did you hear the one about the fox, the squirrel, and the raccoon? It’s a really good one.

Love, Philip.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

I’ve been looking back through some of my Thanksgiving posts over the years for some inspiration and perhaps a perspective on the holiday. Taking a day off to express thanks and brace ourselves for the rest of the holidays is a good time to reflect and be grateful for some of the good things we have and the memories. The post below is from Thanksgiving 2007, when I was looking back at a special holiday weekend.

When I was a kid growing up outside of Toledo, we had some relatives in the area, and we also belonged to a local tennis and social club that served as a gathering place for a group of families like ours and we often went there for holiday dinners. It relieved my mom from cooking one of the two big meals at the holidays; if we had Thanksgiving at home, then we went to the club or another relative’s place for Christmas, or vice versa. We also would have the Thanksgiving meal later in the day — usually around the normal dinner time — because we had season tickets to the Detroit Lions football team, and we would go up to Detroit to sit in the freezing cold bleachers to watch the Lions play their traditional Thanksgiving Day game, then come home to the dinner.

It’s been a while since my family has gotten together for Thanksgiving. We’ve all moved on to different places and have our own families. It’s been many years since my entire immediate family — Mom, Dad, and my three siblings and their families — were together for the occasion.

However, there was one Thanksgiving that I’ll never forget: 1967. I was a freshman at St. George’s, the boarding school in Newport, Rhode Island (and also alma mater of Howard Dean and Tucker Carlson). It was my first extended time away from home and I was miserable. My older brother and sister were also away at school; one in New Jersey, the other in Virginia. My parents made arrangements for us all to get together in New York City that weekend, and they booked rooms at the Plaza Hotel. We saw two Broadway musicals — Mame with Angela Lansbury and Henry, Sweet Henry with Don Ameche — and a little musical in Greenwich Village called Now Is The Time For All Good Men…. We went shopping in Greenwich Village, took hansom cab rides in Central Park, had lunch at Toots Shor’s (and got Cab Calloway’s autograph), dinner at Trader Vic’s and Luchow’s, and saw all the sights that a kid from Ohio on his second trip to NYC (the first being the World’s Fair in 1964) could pack into one four-day weekend. Oh, and we had the big Thanksgiving dinner in the Oak Room at the Plaza with all the trimmings. That night we went down to the nightclub below the Plaza and listened to smoky jazz played by a trio and a lovely woman on piano…could it have been Blossom Dearie?

It was a magical weekend. To this day I still remember the sights and sounds and sensations, and the deep sadness that settled back over me as I boarded the chartered bus that took me back to the dank purgatory of that endless winter at school overlooking the grey Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve had a lot of wonderful and memorable Thanksgivings since then at home and with friends, everywhere from Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and even one in Jamaica, but that weekend at the Plaza forty years ago will always be special.

*

I’ll be on a holiday schedule until Monday. Posting will be light and variable, but tune in tonight for A Little Night Music Thanksgiving tradition.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Monday, April 22, 2019

Happy Anniversary

Thirty-five years ago this handsome young man came up to me at the University of Colorado Gay/Lesbian Alliance Spring Dance and asked if I would dance with him. The tune was “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors. He said his name was Allen. Later, after a bit of a Marx Brothers routine in meeting for coffee at Perkins, we sat and talked, and the next night he came over to my house. He brought me flowers. We were together for the next fifteen years.

Top 40 songs talk about wanting to know what love is. Well, I did after that first date, and I still do, even though we separated amicably in 1999. We shared so many good times and got through a lot of bad ones, and when he died last June 8 it was a loss from which I still feel aftershocks. But I will always be glad that he came into my life, and April 22 will always be our anniversary. And I will always call you sweetheart.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Friday, July 20, 2018

Sam

He died sixteen years ago today. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him. There’s still that worn spot on the old bedspread where he slept, and I still make room for him on the bed.

Sam BW 11-26-03

Sam
February 1, 1989 – July 20, 2002

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Seventy Years

June 16, 1948 was a Wednesday. It was a pleasant day in St. Louis, Missouri; the high was about 78 with a little haze left over from the morning fog along the river. It was a nice day for a wedding.

The young bride and groom came to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard for the ceremony, with the two families and close friends gathering. The bride’s younger sister was the maid of honor and the groom’s twin brother was his best man. After the brief Episcopalian service, the bridal party went to the bride’s parents home for a small reception, and then the newlyweds left on their wedding trip to Chicago, staying at the Blackstone Hotel. Then they went on to their new home in Princeton where he was finishing up his studies before moving on to Houston, Texas, where he would take up a job in the bag business.

The first child, a daughter, arrived the following year, followed the next year by a son. Then, after moving on to Dallas, a third child, the second son, arrived in 1952. Shortly thereafter they moved again, this time back to St. Louis, where in 1956 the fourth and last child, another son, completed the family.

Then in 1957 the family moved again, this time to Perrysburg, Ohio, and there they stayed, the kids growing up in a big house with a big yard, lots of friends and things to do, and the usual joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, that come along with any family. Dogs, cats, birds, bikes, camp, school, Little League, dancing school, tennis lessons, swim meets, all of the cacophony and organized chaos that fits in the wayback of the Ford Country Squire for trips to the lake and the ski slopes.

All too soon came the departures: college, weddings, new worlds for the kids to explore, new lives to lead, but always knowing they had a place to come home to, a phone number — TRinity 4-7824 — to call. Over the years there have been bright days and dark nights. There have been additions and losses, pain and laughter. After all, it has been life. And through it all Mom and Dad were there for us and for themselves.

Trying to put into words what a child feels when reflecting on the lives of the people who brought him to this world is not easy. And knowing that among many of my friends, the simple fact that both of my parents are still alive and well is a rare blessing. So I will make it very simple: on the seventieth anniversary of the beginning of the journey that has brought me and my sister and brothers to life, I say thank you and I love you.

From an earlier time: December 1950 in St. Louis at my aunt’s deb party.

The years have been good to us.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I’m home again, safe and sound from my week-long journey to and through America’s heartland, and in doing so I utilized all three modes of transport.  I am used to the trials and tribulations of travel nowadays, but I learned a couple of things as well.  For instance, having TSA Pre-Check doesn’t really make a difference in small airports or at the crack of dawn; they shuttle everyone through the same line and you go through the same ritual as everyone else.  Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines doesn’t give you more legroom; all it does is give you a few minutes ahead of everyone else to find that out.  Car rental agents and shuttle drivers are friendly and helpful even late at night (or early in the morning, depending on your point of view), and it seems that no matter where you go in America, there’s always a good local place for a great cup of coffee; check out the Coffee Zone in Columbia, Missouri.

I also learned that it is possible to over-pack and even if you plan very carefully, you come back with an increased volume of clothing than what you had when you left.  I didn’t need seven shirts, four pairs of pants, and my blazer, and even if I had, I could have saved some space for the two books that I picked up at the conference.

I also ran the gamut of emotions reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.  I had dinner with a former camper of mine and his wife.  I first met him when he was twelve, and now he’s hit the mid-century mark and has a great career and family.  He told me that I had been and still was a very important part of his formative years, which is both gratifying to hear and reminds me of the tremendous impact a friendship can have.  (And he is still as buff as he was when we worked out at the CU Rec Center thirty years ago.)  I reconnected with people who were an important part of my theatre scholarship life, including one of the men who was the focus of my doctoral dissertation.  He greeted me with a hug and reaffirmed many of the things I’d learned about theatre in general… and about being a good human being.  I made new friends and felt like I’d known them for years after just sharing lunch, and also discovered that when you think you know everything about something, you’re just beginning to hear the whole story.

I also cherished the time — all too brief — with my parents.

The next-to-last leg of the journey was on Miami MetroRail from the airport to Dadeland South.  That’s the mode of transport I use to commute to work, a ritual I will recommence in a little while.  It was, I suppose, a way to ease my way back into my normal routine, at least for the next ten days until I once again venture out into the heartland to learn more about people, life, theatre, and how to pack a carry-on.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Getting Here

The flight was late leaving Miami due to weather somewhere else, and the flight was overbooked.  By the time they were boarding us, the gate agents were offering a $1,000 voucher and all sorts of goodies, including hotel vouchers and first-class upgrades, to any takers.  If I didn’t have just two days with my parents, I would have snapped it up.

Enterprise upgraded my bare-bones reserved car to a Nissan Rogue, which is a station wagon wannabe with more bells and whistles than a carnival organ.  The Red Roof Inn had trouble with the router in my wing so this is my first access to WiFi.  Oh, the horror.

Anyway, I’m here with Mom and Dad, catching up and offering a hand where I can.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

On The Road Again

Heading out this evening for a trip to see my folks for a couple of days, then off to the Missouri Self-Taught: Lanford Wilson and the American Drama conference at the University of Missouri.  I’ll present a paper on Mr. Wilson and compare his life and work to that of William Inge.  I’ll be doing it in front of friends and family of Mr. Wilson and the subject of my dissertation, so, no pressure.

Lanford Wilson 1937-2011

Actually it should be fun.  I’ll be reconnecting with friends and getting to look through the Wilson archives and learn more about him and his life and work.

I’m also looking forward to spending time with my mom and dad.

I’ll post about what I learn; maybe even some pictures.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it.

Easter 1959

Easter Sunday, Perrysburg, Ohio

There is a discussion in my family as to what year this photo was taken; is it 1958 or 1959?  If it’s 1958, the youngest child in the photo would have just turned two years old, and he’s pretty big for two, and the girl would be nine.  I — the one in the red coat — would be five-and-a-half, but I’m two years younger than the boy on the right, and he’s pretty big for someone seven-and-a-half; he’s almost as tall as the station wagon (which is a 1958 Ford Country Sedan) even if he is standing on the curb.  So it’s probably Easter 1959, and we just finished Easter dinner and the egg hunt at the Carranor Club.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Why I Was Out

Yesterday’s short notice absence was a result of a phone call from my ex-partner’s sister.  I won’t go into details but he’s going to be okay, and I needed to be on call because I am still listed as his medical power of attorney.

Once he’s back on his feet we’ll update our documents.

Thanks.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sam

He died fifteen years ago today. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him. There’s still that worn spot on the old bedspread where he slept, and I still make room for him on the bed.

Sam BW 11-26-03

Sam
February 1, 1989 – July 20, 2002

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Three Score and Nine Years

June 16, 1948 was a Wednesday. It was a pleasant day in St. Louis, Missouri; the high was about 78 with a little haze left over from the morning fog along the river. It was a nice day for a wedding.

The young bride and groom came to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard for the ceremony, with the two families and close friends gathering. The bride’s younger sister was the maid of honor and the groom’s twin brother was his best man. After the brief Episcopalian service, the bridal party went to the bride’s parents home for a small reception, and then the newlyweds left on their wedding trip to Chicago, staying at the Blackstone Hotel. Then they went on to their new home in Princeton where he was finishing up his studies before moving on to Houston, Texas, where he would take up a job in the bag business.

The first child, a daughter, arrived the following year, followed the next year by a son. Then, after moving on to Dallas, a third child, the second son, arrived in 1952. Shortly thereafter they moved again, this time back to St. Louis, where in 1956 the fourth and last child, another son, completed the family.

Then in 1957 the family moved again, this time to Perrysburg, Ohio, and there they stayed, the kids growing up in a big house with a big yard, lots of friends and things to do, and the usual joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, that come along with any family. Dogs, cats, birds, bikes, camp, school, Little League, dancing school, tennis lessons, swim meets, all of the cacophony and organized chaos that fits in the wayback of the Ford Country Squire for trips to the lake and the ski slopes.

All too soon came the departures: college, weddings, new worlds for the kids to explore, new lives to lead, but always knowing they had a place to come home to, a phone number — TRinity 4-7824 — to call. Over the years there have been bright days and dark nights. There have been additions and losses, pain and laughter. After all, it has been life. And through it all Mom and Dad were there for us and for themselves.

Trying to put into words what a child feels when reflecting on the lives of the people who brought him to this world is not easy. And knowing that among many of my friends, the simple fact that both of my parents are still alive and well is a rare blessing. So I will make it very simple: on the sixty-eighth anniversary of the beginning of the journey that has brought me and my sister and brothers to life, I say thank you and I love you.

Nancy and Phil 2011