Well, it's about time for the annual wrap-up. In a number of ways, it's been a crummy year, and I'll be glad to see the end of it.

On the personal front, we've both had health issues this year, which, while not terribly serious, have sucked time, energy, and money down the drain. Health care's expensive even with insurance, and I don't see how people who don't have it manage. On the social side, we've had good times with our friends, and at OddCon, WisCon, and TeslaCon, which were our major fannish events this year.

On the job front, Georgie and the Library have managed to hang on to each other, and there haven't been any further cuts in hours or staffing (so far). As for me, the position I had at the beginning of the year was "offshored" to a new group in Bratislava at midyear. Fortunately, I was able to find another job with the company at the same salary and location, which has the benefit of being less stressful, but also less interesting. My first review with my new supervisor is coming up, and I have good numbers compared with the rest of my group, so we shall see how this goes.

On the family front, it's been a year and one month now since Dad passed away, and my mother continues to hang on to existence. She's bedridden, has difficulty speaking, and seems to be losing her hearing as well. I don't think she can hold a book to read any more, which was one of the great joys of her life. I fantasize winning the lottery and having her moved to private care where I could hire someone to read to her, but short of that, there's really nothing that can be done for her, and I hate that. My siblings are all doing well, and in this year I acquired a new nephew-in-law due to niece getting married, and a new great-niece, due to nephew begetting the child.

Politically, the year has sucked for both Wisconsin and the USA. The Walker administration has continued its plan to undo every progressive reform since Robert LaFollett. They have displayed a despicable habit of outright lying, as well as stooping to dirty tricks hitherto unknown in Wisconsin politics, such as running "false flag" candidates in Democratic recall primaries. In the past, the idea that people might have to know who their petition circulator was in order not to be decoyed by someone who intends to trash the signatures was unthinkable, but that has become a reality in our state. The Walker camp acknowledges that the recall will most likely happen, and are saving most of their powder for the actual filing of the petitions, at which time we can expect every sort of political and legal nastiness to be brought out of the shot lockers.

Republicans in Congress continue to be dickheads as well, marching in lockstep with the orders of their corporate masters, as relayed by High Priest Grover Norquist, such that essentially nothing useful has gotten down this year. They hope, of course to blame it on Obama, but I don't think it's working. The freakshow that is the race for the Republican presidential nomination fills me with dread. The only thing worse than the realization that this collection of political pinheads and snake-oil salesmen is apparently what the party thinks is the best it has to offer, is the fear that the eventual nominee might win the Presidency--may the fates forbid it!

Overseas, we've had new growths of freedom in Algeria, Libya, and Egypt, although other nations, such as Syria, seem in for a long tough time if anything can be achieved, so that's a net positive. I hope that the drawdown of US troops from Iraq will be successful, but I'm not sanguine about it. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran all continue to be problems in their own ways. Myanmar may be opening up, which would be a good thing for that region. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is having elections for the second time in its history--probably not well-run elections, but better than none.

The "Eurozone" financial crisis, like our own 2008 crash, is a good example of why not to let "the market" tyrannize anything. Of course Greece overspent, but was there really much chance of a default? The actual issue is a crisis of confidence on the part of bankers and shareholders, who are behind the shortsighted demands for "austerity", a policy that, historically, has done more harm than good.

I wish, for all who read this, family, friends, and people of good will, a better 2012. I hope that a year from now we will all be celebrating a year of good health and financial stability; that a Democratic governor will be working to undo Walker's damage in Wisconsin, that Obama will be preparing for his second term with a more cooperative Congress; and that freedom, democracy, and fiscal sanity will make progress across the globe.

Gregory G.H. Rihn
December 8, 2011
Saturday, September 17th, we were pleased to help celebrate the wedding of our niece, my sister's daughter, Robin Schroeder, to Kurt Grade. The wedding was held at the Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Mequon, Wisconsin, which was a very nice venue.

Robin had particularly asked her Aunt Georgie to do the wedding cake, and the two of them collaborated on the design. The result was a beautiful three-tiered cake with white frosting, layers edged in black ribbon, and an elaborate design picked out by hand in black frosting on the sides of the layers. The cake was finished with real red rose blossoms, and was the subject of general admiration. (Making cake and frosting, then assembling the cake, frosting the layers, and doing the decorations took Georgie the best part of three days--.)

The cake colors reflected the wedding theme, which struck me as a bit Goth for an eleven AM wedding, but worked nicely. The bride wore a simple white strapless gown with empire waist, subtle beading, and short train. She did without a veil, instead having her hair done in a lovely basket-weave braid pattern ornamented with small white jewels. The brides attendants wore black, cocktail-length strapless sheath dresses, and the men wore black suits, red shirts, and silver ties, the groom being distinguished by wearing a silver shirt.

Live music by a small ensemble began and ended the ceremony. Rev. Phillip Hillenbrand performed the service in a light and informal but dignified manner, which we appreciated.

The reception followed the service in the church hall, and was very nicely catered with a variety of hot and cold snacks. I ended up doing the cake cutting (Georgie does not cut her cakes--) and did a workmanlike, if not especially neat job of it.

All my siblings and spouses and most of their children were able to attend, so that was good. I was sad that neither my father, who has passed on, nor my mother, who cannot travel, were able to be there, although my brother Mike took video which Mama might be able to view. We were, however, able to meet my first grand-niece, Alice Teresa Schroeder (my nephew Edward's daughter), for the first time, she being all of not-quite three weeks old. So life goes on.
Well, it's been a quiet month in--Milwaukee.

Due to the family heading out to different destinations for Thanksgiving, Georgie and I went to the "orphans' Thanksgiving" at Lytheria, and had a really good time. There was beaucoup food, largely due to the efforts of Lee, Therese Roden, and Jennifer Newmark, but there were lots of other yummy contributions as well. Georgie's pecan pie was particularly requested and very well received.

So far in December, we've been making it to things that were washed out due to weather last year, which I choose to take as a good omen for the coming year: a friend's holiday party, held the first Saturday of December, our attendance canceled due to blizzard last year; holiday shopping trip to Madison, completed this year in fair style, severely truncated last year due to the same blizzard that K.O.'ed the party. And the December Wisconsin Cream City Chorus Concert, attended and enjoyed this year, not attended due to ice storm last year. My brother in Madison rented a conference room at the nursing home where Mom and Dad are for our use in having a Christmas dinner, and that went well, and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. So, even though the weather's still been crummy (notably unseasonably cold) this year, at least the timing's been better--.

To all who read these tidings at this celebratory season, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Joyous Yule, Good Hannukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or just to have some pleasant times with friends or family.

Most of all, I wish for all of us a safe and secure 2009: it looks like it's going to be a bumpy but hopeful year, and I hope we all get through it intact.
On Saturday, I made what may well be my last trip to my childhood home. The bitter weather of February finally convinced my parents, both of whom have been in declining health, to move to a nursing home, a decision they had been resisting for a long time. I can understand the emotion involved: this was my father's home for more than sisxty years, and my mother's since they were married fifty-four years ago. A couple weeks ago, I got the word that they had made arrangements for a household auction, and if there was anything we wanted at the house to come and get it. A family friend has agreed to purchase the house, so that will be another issue dealt with.

For most of us siblings, there was not that much. There's only one piece of furniture that could be considered an heirloom, a small desk that Dad inherited from his grandfather well after we five children were past the furniture-destroying stage. Any pieces I recall from my youth were pretty well worn out and gone long ago. The house itself is of course not the same as my early memories of it. I recall Grandma Zinke's fern-patterned wallpaper (and the miserable time we had scraping it off); the house has been recarpeted, reroofed and resided a couple of times; the old garage, a freestanding single unit sized for Model T's, was replaced by a two-and-a-half vehicle attached unit. The old cottage that once stood at the back of the property and housed various elderly widowed relatives and occasional tenants between incarnations as workshops or the site of our egg business, one of the small businesses that kept us going through harder times, along with radio and TV repair, grocery delivery, and newspaper distribution, is gone, replaced by yet another garage for the now-departed RV and a shed for the lawn tractor. (Wisconsin Dells basically has no building or zoning codes, which explains why our lot now has more square feet of building than lot.) And it certainly isn't the only home I'VE known: besides being away at college, I've since lived in Lancaster, WI; Waupaca, WI; three different places in West Allis; and our current home in Milwaukee. Where I live now is home to me, but it is still a sobering thought that I could perfectly easily never set foot in the Dells again--and not miss it a bit either. Unless you want to do the tourist things, there's really nothing else there. I went to my fifth-year high school reunion, and have resolutely trashed the invitations I've gotten since. (This year is 35, which I think puts us in the "old grad" group now--.)

So I went up and spent a couple of hours poking through drawers, closets, and the corners of the attic. I took away my yearbooks, which I am proud of due to my work on the Annual staff and the fact that they tend to memorialize the few high points of those years. A few books, a couple pieces of the "family jewels" as keepsakes, and that's about it. Not much to show for the first twenty-five years of my life, but then again, I had pretty much already taken away what mattered to me that could be taken.

On the way home, I stopped off and visited Mom and Dad, and saw that, if not very happy, they are at least being well cared for and have some of their things around them, which is better than a lot of people can say.

The question is, what now? Every year of my life, we have spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at the Rihn's. This year, will we be free to honor one of many long-standing invitations, and celebrate Thanksgiving with friends? Could we have Christmas day to ourselves and make a family visit another time? Part of this, I'm sure will depend on my other sibilngs, most of whom have been tied more loosely to the old homestead, due to being on the outs with Dad, foreign vacations at holiday time, living out of state, or surviving relatives on the spouse's side that require equal time. I don't know what will happen. Only time will tell.
Thanksgiving turned out much better than I had feared it would, although I think some of the family issues are just delayed and I can now shift to dreading Christmas--. My brother David and his wife Val brought most of the meal, catered. Georgie and I came early, cleared the mail and medications off the dining table, and provided the traditional family dishes, like scalloped corn and rutabega, that the average caterer does not provide. My father seemed actually in a good mood, so things went smoothly and with a modicum of actual cheer.

Georgie and I pretty much stayed home on "Black Friday." It's been years since we ventured near a mall or shopping center day after Thanksgiving, and we've learned by experience it's pretty futile to try to find an uncrowded movie house, either, at least around here. So we took the day easy, snuggled in, and did household things, including cooking for Saturday's dinner. (I was making soup, and we find that making the soup a day ahead and letting it mellow overnight provides a superior experience.)

Saturday the 25th, we hosted the monthly Bardic Dinner. The reading theme was "Female Detectives" and the food theme was Classic Steak House. Chef Du Jour Tom Kline brought over his gas grill and grilled delicious New York Strip and Porterhouse steaks. I had made a vegan Soup of Many Onions, using roasted vegetable broth as a base, plus dry sherry, garlic, and seven different onion types, which gave a very mellow and complex soup. Those that wanted could have it steak house style with the floating crouton and melted Gruyere cheese, but the soup was good enough to not need it. Georgie had salad, and provided a classic mix of iceberg and romaine lettuce with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, and radish and carrot shreds, with choice of French or Thousand Island dressings. Shrimp cocktail, dinner rolls, and mixed vegetables were among the other dishes on offer, with cheesecake for dessert.

Megan Schaffer was Skald for the evening, and read a number of entertaining pieces, starting with a segment from "The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency," by Alexander McCall Smith, and some interesting period short stories. These included a one from a Sherlock-Holmes-era series I had not been familiar with, so I found that one particularly interesting.
I didn't know LaVerne Wubben well. We had met only a couple of times, but he was the father of my brother Harold's wife, Connie, and, judging by all I know and have recently learned, would have stood a good chance of being awarded the title of "salt of the earth," were there a competition open for that title. His home for all his life was in rural Hazel Green, Wisconsin. Hazel Green is a tiny community of one main street, located in the Southwest of the state only a few miles north of the Illinois border. "Verne," as he was known, was baptized, married, and buried from the same parish, and laid to rest in the adjacent church yard. Himself one of seven children, he fathered seven of his own with his wife, Darlene, and had accumulated, so far, twenty grandchildren, ranging from attractive and self-posessed young women (among whom I number three of my nieces) to babes in arms. Like many men in that region, he maintained a family farm while also working a full-time factory job for John Deere in Dubuque, Iowa, while that lasted. After jobs at Deere went away, he worked as a school bus driver and later part-time for F&H supply. He died this last Wednesday of congestive heart failure. Verne was a good father-in-law to my brother, and they found a common enjoyment in hunting. "Avid outdoorsman" would also be an apt description of Verne as he hunted deer, bear, and goose, and fished and taught his children and grandchildren to fish. During the family reminicense portion of the funeral, one of his daughters wryly recounted the dubious joys of spending a long fall evening boning a deer, or tracing a blood spoor through a cornfield by flashlight. Among the "gifts" laid on the coffin during the ceremony were an orange hunting hat and a clay "pigeon" target. He wrote letters to his grandchldren, unusual for this age, and filled them with riddles and wisdom they evidently cherish.

Family stories were the best part of the funeral. I am afraid that, since the doctrrinal change that a funeral is to be a celebration of the departed's life and entry into a new life in Heaven, Catholic funerals in particular have become--well, wimpy, for lack of a better word. The commonly used music is dreadful. I don't know what I'll do if I hear "On Eagle's Wings" one more time, although, given my number of Catholic relatives it's probably inevitable. This was followed by an even more insipid song called "Taste and See (The Goodness of the Lord)" which reminded me of nothing so much as a margarine commercial jingle. There was also one to the tune of "Danny Boy", but with very forgettable words, and "Amazing Grace." If they are going to adopt hymns written by Protestants, why not borrow some muscley ones like "Old Rugged Cross" or "How Great Thou Art"?

The priest did an adequate job, although unfortunately he was a somewhat dull speaker, insisted on explaining everything happening during the service although the great majority attending were surely churchgoers if not Catholics, and evidently did not know Verne well, since his eulogy, in fine, boiled down to "he was born/baptised, he got married, he had children and grandchildren." To his credit, he kept everything moving along, and involved the family a great deal. Besides the reminicences, one of Verne's grandsons was an "altarboy", another relative assisted serving the Mass, and three granddaughters sang. Since Verne was enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War, the American Legion color guard turned out and fired the tradition salute at the grave site and "Taps" was played.

My brother, sister-in-law and nieces and other family members were doing as well as might be (the death was not unexpecred) but it is apprent Verne will be keenly missed.
Yes, I live. No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth--it's just been one of those times that, when I've had time to write, I haven't had energy, and when energy, not time--. Anyway, here's a quick update on what's been going on with us.

Annual Review

I tend to suffer a bit from seasonal depression, which, I realize in my case stems not just from an absence of light AND the onset of the Christmas season—which usually combines to make the first weekend of December about my worst time—but also from the “annual review.” You know, it’s that assessment you tend to make knowing that another year has come to an end. Some years, it’s been pretty rough. Around this time of year we’ve had deaths, job losses, illness or other general unpleasantness, which, amplified by darkness and a mildly Scrooge-ish temperament makes for a rather hard time.

This year, I’m doing fairly well, partly because my new position as a manager keeps me sufficiently busy that I don’t have brooding time. Of course, the job has its drawbacks like any job, but I have to feel good about having gotten the promotion. We celebrated twenty years of wonderful marriage. My last remaining unmarried sibling, my brother Mike, got married to his long-time companion, Karen. My parents seem to be doing better than last year at this time, and some of the family stresses due to their unhealth seem to have eased. My sister and other brothers all have intact marriages, very good to decent jobs, good health, and no history of drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, or imprisonment. I myself had and extensive battery of health tests and got a clean bill. So there’s very little to be gloomy about, at least in my personal life. On the other hand, the situation in the nation and the world generally sucks, so I guess there is at least balance.


Since last time, we’ve seen two particularly good movies, one critically acclaimed, and one panned.

The one that everyone loved, including ourselves, was The Incredibles. Surprising, since superhero movies don’t tend to win critical good opinion, even successful ones like Spider-Man. But, truly, I thought The Incredibles was a truly flawless movie. It does one of my favorite things, which is first to say “what if,” and then ruthlessly apply logic and common sense to work out the ramifications. The plot is original: do-gooder super-heroes get sued out of business. Instead of persecuting them, the government puts them into a sort of witness relocation program on the condition they refrain from using super-powers. Mr. Incredible has settled uncomfortably into life as an insurance adjuster, married “Elasti-Girl” and is in the process of raising two also uncomfortable super-powered children. He’s been sneaking out to do bits of unauthorized heroics, so when he gets an offer from a super-secret government agency he’s easily tempted--.

Besides the wealth of ideas, the movie is visually beautiful in so many ways, some of the best of them being subtleties such as motion: Elasti-Girl stretching from rooftop to rooftop looks exactly right. Frozone moves like a speed-skater on his ice, instead of the “surfer” move that is the X-Men “Iceman” cliché. You look at it and say “Of course!” The tropical island where much of the action takes place is beautifully rendered and super-cool in the best James Bond fashion. I really could find only minimal quibbles and consider it a must-see if you care for super-heroics in the least.

The art-house film one would have expected the critics to love but they didn’t is Finding Neverland. It is a fictionalized account of the circumstances surrounding J.M. Barrie’s writing of his masterpiece Peter Pan. The timeline diverges quite a bit from actual facts, but the writers have made a very affecting story on a skeletal reality. Critics tended to say a thing such as that it was “too adult for children, and too childish for adults.” Instead, I would rather say that it was too sentimental for cynics. Since we are sentimentalists, we liked it, and there was not a dry eye among us at the end. If you can restrain yourself from chanting “I do believe in fairies” when Tinkerbell’s light begins to fade, perhaps it is not for you. Otherwise, see it if you can.


We had thought we were looking at a rather grim Thanksgiving. My brother David and his wife were visiting her side of the family, my father had succeeded in estranging my brother Harold’s wife by lashing out at her during my mother’s health crisis, and my sister Teresa has tended to be absent from family gatherings, either tending to her husband’s aged parents or on call for her cardiology practice. So it looked like it would be just Georgie and me trying to carry the burden of holiday cheer to the old homestead—heavy lifting for four, formerly the work of sixteen at times. So we were delighted to find that my father had actually apologized to Connie, such that she, Harold, and their three daughters arrived at the house like Scrooge at the Cratchits, bringing along food enough to turn our adequate meal into a feast. Teresa, having done dinner for her in-laws, appeared as well bringing her son and daughter. What could have been a pretty sad affair ended up suffused with a quiet joy. It was far better than I had hoped.

And so on:

We’ve moved fairly smoothly into the holiday season, although the week after Thanksgiving we both had the feeling our flu vaccines were earning their keep and stayed home from Sue Blom’s salon on the 3rd. We made our annual Christmas shopping trip to the Madison Farmer’s Market, and had lunch with Tracey Benton and Bill Bodden. Yay! Dottie Dumpling’s Dowry lives again, although in a somewhat unnervingly upscaled incarnation. The burgers are good as ever. Our fellow Burrahobbits Don and Rich threw their holiday party and a good time was had. Our friend Yehudit hosted Ashram on the eve of Hanukah, and we had an informative time talking about visions of the afterlife—if any. On the 11th, Bardic Dinner was held at Emory Churness’ home, theme British Cooking, and reading from P.G. Wodehouse—both food and readings were excellent.

On the 18th, there was MilwAPA Collation at our house, which was pleasantly festive time. Insertions for the distribution included orgiami cranes and candy canes. That evening there was a filksing back at Emory's where we had a good time also and sang some pagan Yuletide carols along with the usual filksongs.

On the 19th, we drove up to Wisconsin Dells for a post-wedding brunch hosted by my brother Mike and his new bride, Karen. They got married in the San Francisco area in the middle of October. We couldn't go because we had already comitted all our spendable cash to our anniversary party, and our parents aren't able to travel that far, so they decided to come here and host a reception for local friends and family. It was held at the Cheese Factory, which, despite the name, is a rather nice vegetarian restaurant, and the food was very good. Georgie surprised them with a cake, and a nice time was had. Karen Kubitscek is a psychologist, and she and Mike have been an item for a decade, so we were very ready to welcome her as a new sister.
Seeing others mention the Veterans in their families reminds me I should make mention of ours as well. The Rihn line has been lucky in timing--either too old or too young when war broke out, so we aren't a very martial family. My father's uncles, Bob and Arnold Jones, were with Merrill's Maurauders in Burma, and came home. My mother's brother Jim Lambert served in Korea and Japan in peacetime.

Georgie's grandfather Robertson survived the Gallipoli campaign (as a result never having a good word to say about Churchill thereafter). Georgie's father Richard Schnobrich served in the US Navy in the Pacific in 1944-45, and survived it as well.

All honor to them! We have been fortunate.
This year was the smallest Christmas gathering at my parent's home ever. My siblings all have other in-laws or places to go, and, although they have in the past given priority to the Dells for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, a number of factors, including my mother's health, contributed to a scattering this year. Until a couple of days before Christmas, we weren't even sure that Dad would be able to bring Mama home that day. It ended up being just Georgie and I visiting, and we brought with us the makings of a decent, if abbreviated, Christmas dinner. My parents seemed in reasonably good spirits, and Mama's strength and alertness continue to improve. My dad's campaign to convert the house to be handicapped-accessible continues, most recently with an impressive enclosure for the wheelchair lift he put in during the summer. Although far from the most festive Christmas day we've ever had, we felt good about what we were able to accomplish, and spreading family visits out over several days is probably more like what my mother is up to.
Wednesday evening, I came home to the news on my answering machine that my "Grandma Clara" had passed away rather suddenly, probably as a complication of surgery on thrombotic leg veins that she was recuperating from. Clara Rihn was not my father's mother, in fact, she was Grandpa Earl's third wife. Dad's mother, Ella Zinke Rihn, and a baby sister both died as a result of injuries received in the explosion of a kerosene stove when my father was quite young, which resulted in Dad's being fostered with his maternal grandparents, George and Bertha Zinke. When Earl re-married to Evelyn he attempted to reclaim my father (Harold) from the Zinkes, but was driven off by George, so that my father continued to live with the Zinkes, while Earl established a new family with Evelyn, eventually begetting a daughter, my Aunt Edith. Earl and Evelyn were later divorced, and Earl married Clara, who had a child, Jack Koerner, from a previous marriage of her own, and eventually grandchildren on that side as well. So, as a boy I had: "Grandpa Zinke", who lived with us; "Grandma Lambert ", mother of my mother as well as an aunt and two uncles; and "Grandpa Earl and Grandma Clara," (The term "Grandpa Rihn" was reserved for Earl's father Alvin, and "Grandma Rihn" for the memory of his deceased spouse, who had been a notable termagant.) In the classic way of families who don't talk about certain things, it took us a while to learn that:
1) Clara was Earl's wife but not Harold's mother.
2) Harold's mother Emma was Grandpa Zinke's daughter.
2) Edith was Harold's half-sister, but not Clara's daughter either.
3) The Evelyn Rihn in the Baraboo phone book had been married to Earl at one time. (Although Edith showed up at family events, I never met Evelyn.)
4) Jack was Clara's son but not Earl's.

(Just to further complicate matters, Harry Lambert had married Elizabeth Clark (Grandma Lambert), and her brother, Great-uncle Robert Clark had married Harry's sister, Mary, so Elizabeth was Robert's sister and Mary's sister-in-law, and Harry was Mary's brother and Robert's brother-in-law. So much for classical linear nuclear families.)

Clara was the only paternal grandmother I ever knew, and she was good to us in a rather distant way. Grandma Lambert was the domestic, cookie-baking grandmother. Clara was younger, more social, more dressy in her fashion. She was a good wife to Earl, sharing his love of their small house in Baraboo, their succession of pampered cats, and, "camping" at their travel trailer which spent much of each summer at Devil's Lake State Park, where over the years Earl became almost an unofficial extra park ranger.

Now that she is gone, my family's oldest generation has all passed on. My father and Clara were never terribly close, but the loss comes at a hard time for him, with my mother's poor health meaning she is spending a second Christmas in rehabilitation care. The funeral will be Monday in Baraboo.
Thanksgiving was much better than I had feared it would be. My mother is still back in the St. Clair Field nursing home for rehabilitation after a fall from her wheelchair she suffered at the end of October. My brother and sister-in-law, David Rihn and Valerie Bailey-Rihn, made arrangements to rent a conference room at the home for the noon meal, and catered in the full Thanksgiving dinner. The bright spot was that Mama has improved quite a lot since I saw her Nov. 8th, which was heartening. The dinner wasn't bad, and all the local relatives showed up. My dad seemed to be feeling fairly well, also, so a nice time was actually had.
July 24th marked the 50th anniversary of the wedding of Harold Earl Rihn and Alice Jeannette Lambert, my parents. We marked the occasion by holding an open house on the afternoon of Saturday the 26th. We children did most all the planning and setup, especially my bother Mike and his S.O., Karen, who flew in from California on the 24th and took the intervening time to get the house in shape. Georgie made a cake replicating Mom and Dad's original wedding cake from pictures, I brought more devilled eggs and we bought a spiral-sliced ham as well. Mike and Karen shipped in custom-labled champagne from California, and Harold and Connie, Terri and Ken, and David and Val brought the rest of the makings of a good buffet.

Gradually, the house filled up with relatives and friends, some of whom we hadn't seen in years. It was about as much as Mom and Dad were up to, and wound down when Mom went back to bed.

This fit the definition of a bittersweet occasasion for me. Sweet, because last Christmas, we weren't sure we would see this day. Sweet, because we got to praise Mom and Dad for their accomplishments: 50 years of faithful marriage and five children--all alive, all employed, all married or in long-term relationships; none dead, divorced, imprisoned, or insane; which is not a bad accomplishment by today's standards.

Bitter, because I had envisaged this day years ago as a greater festival, with Mom and Dad able to dance and perhaps be taking a trip. Instead, Mom's stuck in a wheelchair and Dad's so bent over he looks like a walking question mark when he shuffles around. The motorhome they loved collects dust in its garage. 69 isn't that old, dammit! There were friends and family there, their own age or older, who were in much better shape, hale and hearty. One man we thought had one foot in the grave ten years ago--he still has bloated fingers indicative of his long battle with heart disease, but he still appears to be doing better than they are.

I don't wish to be envious of others' better fortune, but it does reinforce my determination to do things NOW, while I can. The future is too uncertain and far away.



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