Can you see my imaginary friends?  There's one right there, where the pathway ends.  Dressed in memories sewn
without seams, man-made fibers stronger than dreams.  Friends provide me windows in my skin-thin prison wall
that let the light of rational perspectives enter in.  And through its pane of memories and secrets sometimes shared
Reveal familiar vistas that, half-silvered, reflect me.

Lost Friends



Family Family Tree Friends Pets
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[Family, Genealogy, Friends, Pets,
Television, Computers, Writing,
Links, Roses, Wreaths, Stained Glass, Birds,
Home, Favorites, Site Map]

Bruce Nelson

Bruce and I were married March 24, 1964. We divorced five years later. He brought me flowers that day. I still consider myself lucky that a scatterbrained nineteen year old was able to choose such a fundamentally decent man. Bruce was my physics lab assistant at the University of Chicago and could never understand why I had so little comprehension of what was my major for 3 1/2 years. I could never understand how he had such a clear grasp of abstract concepts. Mother, hoping to see me develop artistic talents she persisted in believing I had because she did, gave me a set of oil paints and canvases one Christmas. I woke the next morning to find our living room covered in paintings. Bruce went on to paint a mural for Argonne National Labs, as well as some tables for a restaurant.

We bought a British racing green MGB and learned to drive stick as we took it from the showroom floor. I discovered hills in Chicago that no one else had found. Bruce discovered racing and bought a book on how to learn on city streets by taking your corners very, very fast. MGB's understeer, you know, and you can get around a corner much faster by breaking the backend loose. At his first roadrace, the pack came by and he wasn't in it. There was an announcement of an accident. My life stopped until I finally saw him in the distance walking on the roadside with a muffler on his shoulder. On snowy days the car never wanted to start. Bruce fixed that by cooking it with a charcoal grill. Made sense to me.

I'm very thankful for those five years. How can one not be thankful for the chance to love someone?

Caren Parnes

How do you describe perfection? I have actually seen men stop in the street, turn and watch her as she passes. To this is added a soul of elegance, an intelligence of depth and an artistic talent that put her work on the cover of Soldier of Fortune. The only fault I must, in honesty, admit is a perverse insistence on believing Macintosh computers to be wholly superior to PC's. But this is something I believe age and experience will eventually correct.

It was Caren who made the observation that I think at a slant, a useful twist I added to query letters when looking for an agent. Often, like my mother, I find my thoughts arrive in places far removed from where they first began but, unlike her, I find myself uncomfortable arriving there alone. Caren runs beside me when I think, and lets me hold up thoughts to show her paintings made of words, poor reproductions set beside her lights and shadows, lines and curves -- but all I have.

Before I ever met her, I collected copies of Caren's art and, when I could, originals that hung upon my bedroom walls. My major, at the U of Chicago, after physics, was the history of art. Color can, on rare occasions, make me cry in awe of beauty far beyond the day to day existence that I pass. Caren's art is photographic, going well beyond the pose into the heart. She draws each hair, each wrinkle, with such versimilitude that visitors disbelieve and walk on past until directed to look at this, and notice that, and then they, too, exclaim in wonder and praise the artist while I applaud the friend.

I wrote a story once that, like others that I wrote, cloaked mother's death in characters that lived in fantasy. On one facing page, Spock touches a mirrored reflection of a sleeping Kirk. Caren drew this piece. On another page, a healer looks out with pointed ears and Caren's face. This means a lot to me.

I have been extremely lucky in having Caren close while I was learning video production. There must truly be balance in nature -- not only does the camera love her, she enjoys being in front of it. I miss her. She lives and works now in Silicon Valley, but at least I have her on tape. And I can always hope that someday I will wonder - is she real or is she Memorex?

Lyn Bates and Roger Lanny

Lyn was raised by a dog trainer. Not only did she get to eat dog biscuits, she also learned to respond to hand signals. One of the blessings of my life is that Lyn and I had a chance to know each other's mother, both now gone. It's important to have someone who shares your memories.

While I was taking my master's in Computer Science, Lyn was my first instructor in computer programming langauges. I think I did a paper for her on alpha beta pruning of decisions for computer chess. Later when I became chair of SIGPLAN, our professional society for programming languages, Lyn became president of computational linguistics. I always thought there was something very right about that.

Roger proposed to Lyn in the way every woman dreams about. Misdirecting her into dressing up, he took her out the door in time to watch a limousene drive up. Then it was a gardenia, champagne, dancing and a diamond ring. Luckily for him, she said yes. Roger is the one to break all sterotypes. Not only does he love guns of every size and description, he also has season tickets to the ballet.

Apprehensive of his allergies but wanting to let Lyn have the cat she so wanted, Roger became the somewhat skeptical father of Yoda, a Rex that was reputed to be easy on the nose. Following directions, Roger bathed her every week in sterilized water to minimize potential dander. First Yoda was let out of the bathroom, and then she was let into the bedroom, and then she took up a permanent position on the bed next to Roger and his kleenex box. It's nice to know that big men can be big softies.

Vicky Clark

Brilliant in a kitchen, Vicky's best receipes are for young people. She's an English teacher at Aviation High School in New York City and an example of what's really good about our educational system. Vicky believes in her heart in every student she has. Not being overly impressed with any school system I had seen, I took a master's in education so that I could teach any children that I might have at home. Vicky stopped me in my tracks and turned me around to believe that some teachers truly are Master Teachers. If you ever find yourself with extra computers or extra resources that would be useful for high school age students, I know one good school that would make superb use of them.

My favorite story is one where Vicky was being encouraged to recruit her honor's students as tutors. She made the pitch, as requested, but one of her students expressed concern because he was so overcommitted with work and schoolwork. Preoccupied, Vicky told him to consider it anyway and turned away. After he left, she began to see again his face and the concern that had been there. Her guilt at having used her personal influence to encourage someone beyond their legitimate limits became overwhelming. She hurried to the principal's office and found out where the student was just then and hurried there to call him out of class and into the hallway. The boy was beside himself and tried to explain to her again why his time was so filled. She quickly shushed him and apologized for subjecting him to unneeded pressure. The boy came close to tears begging her to not apologize as none of the students could bear to see her do that, they loved her so. That student cared because that teacher cared. May the teaching colleges turn out others in her image.

Martha Borkan

Martha and I worked for a software company in Cambridge almost 20 years ago. When my office mate moved out of our window office, we snuck Martha into it overnight. Sure enough, they let us stay together. We had a wonderful office, with a huge tin sign on the wall that was scrounged from somewhere in the industrial park and fish kites hanging from the ceiling. We had a rug bed along the wall where my mother laid while recovering from surgery. It was a good company and a good time to work there.

Martha is probably the gentlest person I know. Not that she doesn't get done what she needs to do - she's a first rate compiler person - but she just does it in such a nice way. I always thought the company would have done a lot better on its proposals if it had just sent Martha off to hand-deliver them. Who could turn down someone with a smile like sunshine?

Martha was the first friend I ever knew while she was pregnant. I think she did even that gently. I remember driving her once somewhere, where, I don't remember, and being in total terror from the responsibility that life and a half represented. How she handles a job and a marriage, a beautiful home filled with antiques and a son making basketball cards with such equanimity is nothing short of inspirational. Believe it. Supermom does exist. And doesn't even make a big deal of it.

Wendy Kellogg

Wendy is wild. That's the only way to say it. She's small, but a powerhouse of energy that bounces off all the walls around you. And she is very, very smart. Conversations with her just take off and keep going. She wants to do EVERYTHING. And she can! Or, at least, she tries to. All she has to do is hear of a book that needs a chapter, a conference that needs a chair, a session that needs a paper -- and she's off again.

Wendy is a computer/human interface expert and that was the group I found myself in at Research. I taught her how to make videos and she taught me about interfaces, or intelligent agents, or Macromind Director, or whatever it was that had her attention for the moment. And we had fun. Don't let anyone tell you that computers are boring. Wendy could make Max Weber's "Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" fun.

When I started up my own company, Wendy hired me to make a video about the conference she was chairing. I got myself all psyched up for interviewing academics and experts and attending a lot of (yawn) really interesting sessions. Then Wendy explained that she wanted me to overlap only the last few hours of the day -- so that I could get the conferees in the evening when they really cut loose. This was the conference to end all conferences. Now I've chaired a bunch of conferences in my day but, let me tell you, not one of them was in the same league as this one. These people knew how to work and they knew how to party. There was the Boston T-party, where people wore their interests on their chests to help break the ice. There was the Boston Children's Museum party with games to play while you dipped strawberries in chocolate. And then there was the conference banquet. We're talking Merry-go-rounds and fortune tellers and inflatable things to jump in and hills to climb over wearing velcro and t-shirts to paint and rabbits to pet and food. Excuse me, I think I have to go and watch the video again.

Richard Monnier

I can remember as if it were yesterday, but it was 35 years ago. Mother had taken me to the Adler Planetarium for the first day of the telescope making class. We sat in the back of the small auditorium and Richard came in and began to tell us about reflecting mirrors. I was just 16.

Richard was something out of a fairy tale. He was my first fiance and I called him god. For dances, when he couldn't decide on a corsage, he'd bring two -- orchids and a gardenia. He would show up at my Catholic girls' high school with candy and poems and music -- and I felt like a princess. I actually walked along Lake Michigan after the senior prom wearing a long, white chiffon gown with the long white train blowing out behind while Richard sang "Simple Gifts" from Appalachian Spring.

It was heady stuff for someone so young but I am just grateful that we were so young together. I am grateful that our first kiss was as much an event for him as it was for me. I am grateful that he taught me to love Matthew Arnold and Swan Lake and Appalachian Spring. And I am grateful that he taught me that there really is magic in this mundane world.

Tricia Deneault

I always explain that the reason I never went to more than one meeting of the Boston Star Trek organization was that I had found what I wanted at the first meeting and there was no need to go back. What I found was Tricia.

Tricia had long, blond hair down to her waist, a style I appreciated since my brown hair is still to my waist. I went to Tricia's home in New Hampshire to borrow Star Trek fanzines, a type of small printrun publication that was filled with stories from fans who would explain what REALLY happened after Kirk got his own body back from Janet Lester in "Turnabout Intruder." Tricia not only had everything, she had it organized with ratings so that I could start reading at the 10's and work my way down (I stopped somewhere around the 4's).

At the beginning, it looked like we had absolutely nothing in common. Tricia did daycare and had four children of her own. I was a computer professional who was constantly on the move -- commuting from home in the Boston area to work in NY, traveling to executive committee meetings around the country. We started with our common interest in Star Trek. We ended with a deep respect for one another and a life-time friendship.

Tricia has guts. That's probably what I like most about her. She looks at the world and then settles down to tackle whatever it's handing out. After awhile, she decided to learn about computers and she took evening classes after the daycare children went home. She worked her butt off all evening and all weekend. When you talk about the "work ethic", this is the person you're talking about. Tricia worked until she dropped. Quite literally. And when she finally had to admit that she was disabled, she needed to deal first with the guilt at not working before she could get on with what she could still do.

And yet she doesn't really complain. She talks about her situation, but that's not complaining. It's planning and hoping and dreaming. She is a person of gentleness. Of ethics. Of compassion. If I had to say what makes a friend, I don't think I'd necessarily say it's common interests, or similar experiences, or even having the same point of view. First and foremost, I'd have to say, it's respect. I'm glad Tricia's my friend.

Rhoda Irene Tasler Feldman Feldman

The first week we arrived at the University of Chicago, they tested the heck out of us and sent us all up to the Wisconsin woods to recover. It was there that I met Ronnie. Maybe it was the aloneness of leaving home for the first time. Maybe it was the alienness of all that green stuff. Whatever it was, we met and came together with an instant rapport that I don't ever remember having with someone before or since. We talked and talked until it's amazing we had anything left to say. Ronnie moved into my dorm room and we just kept talking. There was an evening, late at night in the dorm basement, when we listened to Rachmaninoff and talked our way staight through the layers we cover ourselves with to keep out the outside world. And then, suddenly, we stopped talking, the fear in the room palpable. We turned off the Rachmaninoff and left the room and let our shells build back until we were safely apart again. I learned more that night about the unconscious than I ever did from all the psychology books of Freud.

Ronnie Feldman met her husband, Fred Feldman, in an admissions line that first week, hence the last name that I always teased her with, "Feldman Feldman". Fred was a sweet man but completely flumoxed by Ronnie and I on double dates. By now, she and I had developed a non-verbal shorthand that was quite incomprehensible to anyone else. She'd look up at an ad and I'd reply with a comment about her mother. I'd look out the train window and she'd agree that we needed to make plans for the next weekend. As for Fred, he started finding seats on trains where she and I couldn't make eye contact.

Even at the time, I knew that this rapport was an ephemeral gift that had to be cherished for its very fleeting specialness. We were of radically different tempraments, of radically different backgrounds and yet there, on the campus of University of Chicago, those two divergent paths had intersected for a moment in time and would, inevitably, continue on in their inexorable paths, eventually drawing us apart.

I met Ronnie twenty-five years later. She has her PhD now and a son just entering college, as we had done all those years before. She thought it was a shame Peter Pan had never met me because she was sure he would have felt much better about having to grow up. I still knew the way she held her head and the way she laughed and the way the logic and incisiveness of that brilliant mind burrowed into information. But I didn't know what she was thinking, and I found myself uncomfortable, as though I ought to know. It's funny, I guess, here I am reading science fiction and watching Star Trek and remembering that Once Upon a Time, I, too, knew how to mindmeld.

Lyn Bates - Annie Oakley

I don't know if my friendship with Lyn would ever have deepened as much as it has if it weren't for guns. I was brought up with a full and fine set of phobias by an adoring mother and grandmother. The fact that I don't swim comes from vivid descriptions of the state of grandmother's brother when they finally pulled him from the water. My fear of guns probably came from mother's anger at father, a rifle instructor, after she left him. Whatever the source, I was deathly afraid of guns.

Lyn is a beautiful woman, soft-spoken and kind. Her smile is more like moonlight than sunlight, but it warms like summer noon. Beneath this quiet exterior beats the heart of an adventurer. I asked her once why she had taken up guns. She explained that it was easier on the knees than learning to hangglide.

It took a very long time before I was willing to accompany her to the range. It was a basement place of unfamiliar smells and occasional loud bangs. With protectors for my ears and eyes, Lyn took me downrange, talking to me of safety and showing me how to hold the gun and how to stand. Holding it at all was difficult because of the shaking of my hands, pointing it at the small concentric circles seemed impossible. And then she said something that penetrated through the mind-numbing panic, "There is only one bullet in this gun. When you pull the trigger, you will make the gun safe."

Shooting meant safety, not danger. It was a truly bizarre idea but, perhaps because it appealed to the bizarre in me, it worked. I calmed and was able to fire the gun and hit the target. I can't describe the feeling of having faced up to a fear and, if not conquered it, at least put it under my control.

It was only after we left the range each night that the tightly held control began to fray and I would find myself convulsed with cramps while driving a long and lonely hour back to home. Lyn, upon learning of this, insisted that I spend these nights on her sofa and thus began a period in which our friendship deepened through late night conversations warmed by tea and the faint, lingering fragrance of gun cleaning solvent.

Dennis Majerski

I was 5 years old when we moved to the new brick house on Clyde Avenue in Chicago. This was back when 8800 South was still considered almost country. There were few houses on the surrounding blocks and, with a four block park directly across the street, it seemed that you could see forever. One of the few other houses was next door to ours and in it lived one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever had the luck to encounter in my admittedly short life. His name was
Dennis. He had blond hair and perfect features. He was also 3 1/2 years old. From the moment I first saw him, I was in love. Somehow I got hold of his picture in a carved, fake ivory frame and tucked it faithfully beneath my pillow each night as I went to sleep. The depths of my obsession with this perfect little boy should be clear when I tell you that I would sit beneath his window and listen to him practicing his accordian, surely an act that should be classed with the highest devotation.

Dennis' mother was Rene and his father, Sam. Sam worked in the steel mills and Rene was a stay-at-home mother, a perfectly respectable profession in 1952. My mother was divorced, which was not as common in those days, and so I was taken care of after school by my grandmother. Rene called herself my second mother and, on warm summer evenings when we would play in front of our houses (when the mosquito trucks weren't coming around), I would hide my head in her lap for our games of hide and seek. Inside Dennis' bedroom was a thing of wonder -- a blackboard on which Rene would draw cartoon characters so perfectly that it was a wonder she didn't do it professionally. Perhaps, in today's world, she would have. Sam was a big man, strong but gentle. I can still picture them all, Sam and Rene and Dennis, dressed for church on Sunday and getting into their white and blue Chevrolet. I think, even today, they are the image that pops up in my mind when people talk about the "ideal family".

Even in ideal families, children can be a handful, especially when one of the ringleaders has a taste for mischief and no fear of repercussions. I was spoiled. There's no other way to say it. I was adored and pampered and made to feel that the world revolved around me. And I was trouble on two feet. The land on the other side of our house was finally sold to the Smiths, a very nice older couple that I adopted as second grandparents -- a child can never have too many adoring adults around -- especially ones that know how to bake. This was the first time I got to watch a brick house actually being constructed. It was a playland from heaven. There were brick rows in various stages of construction, and basements filled with circular alumnium disks that came out of electrical boxes, and there was "the hill".

The hill was a huge dirt pile that resulted from the initial excavation of the house. While the building, itself, was still only a hole in the ground and a diagram on paper, that dirt pile was the Rocky mountains and the Swiss Alps and Plymouth Rock (which I knew must be impressive), all rolled into one. Remember, this was Chicago. And the hill was right next door.

In hot weather, grandfather and Sam would put out bathing pools for each of us that were heated by the sun. On one such day, Dennis and I were splashing away with enthusiastic abandon when I got an idea. Wouldn't it be fun to go all the way up to the top of the hill in our bathing suits and then come rolling down? Dennis wasn't easy to convince that this sounded like a better thing to do than just seeing how large a splash you could get by throwing a beach ball into the middle of the water. But I had learned from grandmother than a thing isn't worth having if it doesn't take some effort. I kept after him and, finally, he agreed that it might be fun. We clambered to the top and, soaking wet, rolled down through sand and dirt until we landed at the bottom, laughing uproariously and looking like something out of a Flash Gordon movie. Rene and grandmother didn't find our resultant state quite so amusing.

My punishment, as usual, was to be taken in, washed off, and sternly scolded not to try that particular stunt again. Clean and dry, I ran back outside in time to hear from inside the Majerski house the sound of Dennis being spanked. It's a sound that still echoes down the years. Mother didn't believe in spankings and I think it's because she found something far more effective -- the punishment that one metes out to oneself when forced to confront the pain that one causes.

Dennis and I grew up and apart, as the eighteen months between our ages pre-ordained. I married and brought back my husband to the house where grandmother still lived. I saw Dennis there and he told me that he was getting married as well. He had a picture of her and she was as beautiful as he was, standing there beside her in his Coast Guard uniform. He said that he'd told her about me. I'm glad. Love is a very precious memory and should be cherished, even when you're five years old and he only three and a half.

Arleen Geller - Art, Aliens and Portraits

Fandom is a large gossip circle and when something happens to anyone, the word rotates 'round very quickly. I heard that Arleen was having back surgery and so I began calling to try to buck her up. Through repetition, this number became ingrained in my subconscious and, later, when I dropped into an emergency room to get a perscription for what I thought must be a kidney infection and found out that they wouldn't let me out again, that mantra of digits was the only indirect link I had to try to find my husband in New York. It seems that grandmother was right again. Not only should you always carry emergency numbers in your purse, you should also make sure that your underwear is in good repair before you leave the house.

Arlene is a librarian and a science fiction specialist. As one might expect of someone in that position, Arleen knows everything. She knows not only the writers and the publishers and the editors and the books, she knows the giggling high school girls who come in after school and the matron looking for the latest hot romance. What she distills from all this knowledge is common sense, a commodity more discussed in absentia than in warm-blooded fact.

As do so many of my friends, Arleen reads for me. She follows my vampires down meandering backplots and scampers happily with werewolves through byzantine complication. "You're making them run around again," she cries. And I hang my head, then rip the pages from computer memory and start again.

I envy Arlene her insight and I envy her her art. She can take a pencil and breathe colored life into colorless paper until you become convinced that the breast in front of you really rises and falls in rhythm with your own. But most of all, I think, I envy Arlene her mother. Hannah is a comfort and a strength and a joy. She's probably the source of Arleen's common sense. They've lived in the same New York apartment for over forty years and the building has become family. She spreads out my new purchases across her bed and gives her wise advice on which blouces should go with which skirts and which ones should just go back. She's a link to childhood, a mother who reaches out as universal mother and advisor and friend.

We can't get together as often as we did. I no longer have to keep an apartment in New York and Arleen has become allergic to the cedar in my house. We try to meet in Maryland once a year to watch Klingons roam the hotel halls and, until teleport becomes an everyday affair, for now, that will have to do. Work faster, Scotty. Your "poor wee bairnes" can wait for just a little more. I need a circle of sparkling lights to materialize what now takes form in thought -- a friend.

Edith Layton Felber

I was first introduced to Edith Layton when Edi Bjorklund sent me a copy of "The Duke's Wager." Edi was mad about the book and after one reading, so was I. I copied Edi's enthusiasm and began purchasing multiple copies of the book to give to friends. Even my dear husband finally read it, just to find out why I loved Regency romances so much.

I happened to ask AOL about authors one day and was shocked to discover my very favorite writer online at that very moment. I sent her a message and that's where it all started.

I built a website for Edith and, in the process, got to know her well. I've sworn to her that a fairie sprinkled pixie dust over New York City and hit both our parents by mistake. I've never met another person who was so much a reflection of my likes, my dislikes, my enthusiasms and my compulsions. To create something that she'll love, I just have to find something that I love. Dragonflies, butterflies, roses and herbs. Laughter and tears and an armful of fur.

What a lovely world when you can just turn a corner and bump into someone so very special. I'm awfully glad that we both wear velcro.

Patricia Frazer Lamb

Patricia awes me. She is someone who makes me grateful that our lifetimes overlap so that I have the opportunity to know her. We met because of my music videos. She had seen the ones I had done for Star Trek and wanted to come for a 24 hour visit to get copies. She meant 24 hours. We never slept. I was then full in the middle of my obsession with the British science fiction series Blakes Seven and insisted that she take those with her as well. Reluctantly, she agreed. Those 24 hours accomplished three things -- they made Patricia a Blakes Seven fan, they turned a college professor into a video producer, and they made us friends.

Patricia lived in Pennsylvania Dutch country and taught college English there. It was as though a freesia was blooming in a field of violets. I visited her and, on quiet summer nights, would sit half-hidden behind her open door waiting for Amish carriages to come trotting into camera range. This peaceful town was physical and emotional leagues from the world of Patricia's past.

The average female college graduate in the 50's assumed that her future was to be found in marriage. What that average woman didn't assume was that her marital home would be situated in the plains of West Africa. We look back on the 50's as a time of men in the uniform of business suits and women wearing single strands of pearls. There can be comfort and reassurance in living a life whose extents are so clearly calculated. But, even then, there were some spirits who must crash society's boundaries in order to breathe. Patricia was one such spirit. I look at 8mm footage of a young woman and two small boys smiling at a camera on a hot, lush plain. A dog wanders through the frame. "What happened to the dog?" I ask. "A lion ate it." she replies.

While Patricia was living the life of a British civil servant's wife, her college roommate sculpted in Paris, chasing the phantasm of "culture" that Americans were sure resided there. They wrote letters to salve their isolation and clung to these symbolic scraps of papered familiarity as they gradually moved into the self-awareness of middle years. Their migrations from the expectations of the 50's to the hopes of the 60's were documented by these letters and became the book "Touchstones."

I can't express how strange it is to get to know someone on two separate levels at once - one through interactions based on day-to-day events, and one through the rushed intimacy of reading private/public thoughts. Patricia writes in a diary everyday. Upon her death, these and all her other papers will be stored in Harvard's library for future researchers to ponder what they mean. I understand that when we speak by phone or, too infrequently, face to face, the results of that day's imaginings and laughter will end up translated into the monuments of words, but I know it only with a remote observor in my mind that laughs at the idiocy of what we're saying having such a long and drawn out echo. Today, for now, I simply laugh and try to filter from our fun the wisdom of her observations so that later I, too, can ponder for myself her wisdom and let her wild imaginings set off for me my own.

Linda Sax

I met Linda on the floor of a hotel. We came for a Star Trek convention and left with a friendship. Linda is a lovely woman of generous spirit and hair that spills from its bun to reach for the floor. There is an elegance to her that even the sillest time together never diminished. It's as though there will always be a part of her that is still that small girl that her father caught in a kodachrome moment with a butterfly on the palm of her hand.

Linda is bonded to a poet and is wife and mother and friend and muse. Boria's writing is almost otherworldly in the care with which he forms each phrase and each idea. And, complete, it is as precious as a soap bubble that pops in the air and leaves behind the memory of a fragile beauty.

Linda and I have been out of touch for a few years and I'm sorry about that. I miss her and keep memories of her alive by collecting things I intend to someday give her. Pig things. Because she fell in love with them at the zoo. And because it would make her laugh. And I like to remember her laughing.

Sister Mary (Farrell) Visitation

Before I decided to become an astronomer, I took it for granted that I would work in a library. On entering Aquinas Dominican High School in Chicago, I applied to work in the library and it was there that I met Sister Mary Visitation. Sr. Visitation had found her vocation late in life, waiting until after her mother had died before giving up her career with the Chicago Public LIbrary for the far more restricted world of a high school library. Branch librarians still remembered Mary Farrell, though, speaking of her to me always with warmth and affection.

From my freshman through my junior year, I spent every free moment I had in that wonderful place of ideas and imagination. I read my way through Russian snows and deserts full of hermit saints. And always there was Sr. Mary Visitation. It might have been because she came to the convent so late, but I truly believe that we formed a friendship that was valued on both sides. She listened to me and laughed with me and told me when my adolescent passions were in danger of taking me too far afield. I wanted to be like her - a nun surrounded every day of my life by books.

Eventually, I worked my way up to becoming president of the library club, a position whose prominence made only more embarrassing an unfortunate habit of collecting overdue book fines. But adolescence is a time of change and, luckily for the convent, my dreams of coifs and dusty tomes were soon replaced by dreams of space-black skies and double stars of sapphire blue and blazing gold. Now my imagination saw an observatory at the top of a mountain where supplies would be brought in for us twice a year by long strings of pack mules (probably carrying sidepacks filled with Boraxo). I discovered astronomy and I discovered men or, rather, one particular man -- my telescope optics instructor. And Sr. Visitation listened, too, to all of this.

I came back in my senior year to a very different place. The books were still in order on the shelves, the desk was still neatly laid out in an almost military regularity but the energy that made that place so special was gone. Sr. Visitation had been diagnosed with bone cancer and now had to stay in the convent. To say I was devastated is to say that hurricanes are merely wind. The other nuns were now my conduits for messages back and forth. I remember standing once beneath her window but, for some reason, I can't remember if I saw her there.

When she died, there was only one thing that was said to me that brought any comfort, but it was something that I took away with me -- the idea that each person with whom you come in contact changes you in some way. Maybe you pick up a laugh, a memory, an opinion, or even a point of view. But the important thing is that you change and, in that change, the other person lives. As long as you remember them, they live on in you. That is a heavy, but a humbling, responsibility. At first I carried only Sister Visitation. But then she was joined by grandfather, then grandmother and finally by mother. It's not crowded in there now, just comfortable. I know that in the normal course of life, inevitably, others will join them. And that's what these pages are all about. It's a way to share memories with you so that we carry them together.

Brian Richard Boylan

Many times we deal with life by throwing seeds into the wind and hoping that they fall to earth on fertile ground. I did that when sending out query letters to find an agent for my screenplays. Those little seeds turned up quite a jungle but one of them, Brian's, ripened into something that I cherish dearly, a friend.

Brian is an agent, but that can be forgiven him because he's also one of the warmest, craziest, most wonderful men in the entire world. He wrote me because he liked my query letter. I suspect he liked it even more than he liked my screenplay. But he did like that, too. We talked on the phone and it was as though I'd found the male version of me. He shared my enjoyment of the bizarre and my sense of humor. You can't ask much more.

When I decided to take my chances with a New York agent, one of the hardest parts of the decision was fearing to hurt Brian's feelings. But he was kind and we kept talking and our friendship grew. We shared memories and current lives and plans. We set each other off on Gettysburg or Forever Knight or photography or videography. We exchanged music and ideas and creative inspirations and kicks in the butt and worries and medical advice. We cared about one another.

I think of him as fragile because his health has been poor at times. I worry if I hear him out of breath and I panic when he doesn't answer the phone for a week. My two contractual years with the New York agent has passed and Brian is now acting as my agent. I don't panic because I fear losing an agent. I can get another one of those easily enough. I panic at the worry to someday lose a friend. They are special and should always be cherished.

The picture of him here is also very special because this is the first time I've known what Brian looks like. He sent it to me for this page. I've grown to love and care about a voice and a soul. And now, when I think of something funny and hurry to the phone, I'll be able to see his eyes twinkling as he begins to laugh. Stay crazy, Reverand Boylan.
[Brian Richard Boylan (12/11/36-10/17/05)


When I was a child, I envied the friends who had "penpals". It always seemed so romantic to be able to write to someone in Russia or New Zealand or somewhere exotic. I don't know why I never just did it, but I didn't. So when I joined the Due South mailing list and Melissa wrote to welcome me, I was very excited when she wrote back to thank me for thanking her. One note led to another and another and now both of us have a huge file of letters that we keep.

Melissa lives on a military base in North Dakota with an air force husband, two air force children and, I guess, an air force dog. She writes me wonderfully funny letters about the doings of all of these. Kenny, the toddler, has taken to climbing into bed with her while her husband is away. She's trying to cure him of that. I love to read her stories and picture her life. I feel as though I'm there, laughing with them all in a house that's filled with toys and love.

Melissa writes. She's an honest-to-goodness, paid-for-her-writing, free-lance professional. She doesn't just write for money, she writes because she sees things in her mind that she has to write down and because she wants other people to see them, too. I haven't written for awhile, myself. It was so depressing to have my screenplays drop down the black hole of that New York agency that I couldn't make myself write anymore. I grieved for the death of my unborn stories, even as I took pleasure in the fact that Melissa's were as alive and rambunctuous as her own young family.

Gradually, her enthusiasm has begun to make its way through my writing block. She's chiseled a hole that is letting me see just the faintest touch of daylight, and I do so much want to sit at that opening and breath in the pleasure of being able to create worlds of my own again. She sends me tapes of Due South episodes that I've never seen and I am sending her tapes of music videos of shows she may never have watched. I fear the trade will always be uneven.

She has brought so much joy into my world with her Due South stories, and her enthusiasm and her excitement over each new day. I've brought Brian into hers. Brian is a much overworked literary agent and Melissa is a fount of boundless energy that children and dog and husband seem only to exhilerate, never to tire. The combination seemed a natural. I hope it will be. They have so much to offer one another. I like getting friends together. It's not just the integrating of various parts of my life, it's also the opportunity to give two people you care about a gift at the same time - the gift of each other. One of the lovely things about friendship is that it never gets used up. The more places you have to share it, the more there seems to be to share. And like our file of letters which sit within my computer's memory growing larger by the day, I look forward to a deepening friendship as today's stories become yesterday's memories. I was right all those years ago. It is nice to have a penpal.

Vincent Kruskal

Vincent was a love of my life that, luckily for both of us, became a friend. We lived together in Chicago and in Los Angeles during two very exciting years. We walked the back streets of Chicago near the Stockyards while tear gas filled the streets and jeeps with barbed wire drove down Michigan Avenue. I remember the Secret Service men who questioned us on that early morning walk we took after we left the computer center. Vincent has forgotten. That's all right. Even then, I was the repository of our memories.

Together with our friends from the systems programming group of U of C, Vincent and I moved to LA to work at NCR and to live in a complex by the ocean. We interviewed a lot of companies before we made that big decision. I always noticed that in these interviews someone would inevitably take out a pad of paper and surreptiously take notes on Vincent's ideas, which flowed freely and always unexpectedly. Vincent could well afford to dispense his thoughts because they raced from him with breathtaking originality and insight.

We drove to LA in Vincent's old Checker car, with five cats and no air conditioner, through Death Valley in July. I was so desperate to cool the cats that I kept a bucket of water on the floor of the back seat and tried dunking a cat in water and holding it up to the window. I don't know what the passing cars must have thought. I know what the cats thought.

It was a time of flower children and hitch hikers and strobe lights and mini skirts. We left work before dawn and would scrape the ice off our windshield and drive over a mountain range until we could see LA spread out before us. Then we would drive down the Palos Verdes range to our complex to sleep till noon or until the unending repetition of "Talk to the Animals" drifting across the flower farm from Marineland would wake us up. I had my own red sports car, a Fiat spyder, that I would race through fog and around mountain curves, bumping on pavement that had jolted up in the night so that it was constantly under repair. I've watched and rewatched "Forest Gump". The music takes me back to days and nights spent driving California hills with music blasting from the convertible and two young people never imagining that they would ever grow up or grow apart.

I'm married now, and so is he. I think his wife is perfect for him. She's a lawyer and must enjoy debating his endless arguments on either side of all positions. They have two sons and there's a peace in his eyes now that I never saw those many years ago. I'm deeply happy that he has something so precious, but I feel that I do, as well. I have Los Angeles as the 60's became the 70's, and memories that are ever dear of a lover and a friend.

IME logo Copyright © 1996, Mary S. Van Deusen