I have always had a gratifyingly warm relationship with my relatives on my mother’s side of the family, the Sherricks. What with the older generation passing and folks scattering to the ends of the U.S.A., I don’t see any of them very often anymore. Fortunately, my cousins periodically organize a reunion, a.k.a. Sherrick Shindig, at some different location, typically not where anyone lives. This year is the first time in ten years I’ve been able to attend, and we are gathered at a lakeside house in Tennessee, which is a state none of us lives in. We’re having a great time. Swimming, boating, relaxing, talking…
That’s after calming down from the last six miles of the drive here (Allysen and I driving the Winnebago mothership). The road in to this location could very well serve as a roller coaster track for Cedar Point. Up, down, twist right, twist left, twist and climb, twist and drop. The mountain roads of Puerto Rico got nothing on this road. But we made it!
Allysen’s mom died last Sunday, of Covid-19, at the age of 90. The senior care facility where she lived had managed to stay free of the virus until just a couple of months ago. Then it got in, and it was just a matter of time. Fay tested positive on Tuesday, and Sunday night she was gone. The end was remarkably peaceful, a quiet ebbing away, without apparent discomfort. She (at Allysen’s wise insistence) stayed in a quarantine bedroom in the facility rather than being taken to a hospital, which she would have hated. The staff were great, and so were the hospice people who helped out at the end.
Fay was a remarkable lady, well educated and well traveled. She and Phil, my father-in-law, had roamed the world for decades, finally settling in Ponce, Puerto Rico after his retirement. She was witty and generous and interested in all kinds of things, but especially art and art history. During her “retirement” years, she worked at the excellent art museums in Ponce and San Juan, and her house was full of art gathered from all over the world. She loved her dogs and her kids and her grandkids. She used to introduce me to complete strangers as “the world’s greatest son-in-law,” which was both heart warming and undoubtedly undeserved. She noted when Allysen and I were married that it would be awkward figuring out what I should call her. “Mom” didn’t seem right; even Allysen didn’t call her “Mom.” She finally settled on “Mm” for her and “Mmm” for Phil.
We are all terribly sad to see her go, but we know she didn’t want to hang on, as time robbed her of her faculties. We are grateful that the end was merciful and peaceful. We know she’s glad, too.
Fay, I hope you’re enjoying your reunion with Phil, and all the dogs, and all the others who went before you! God bless you.
I came across this picture—on photo paper! The year was 1998. The year we hung on.
This is me with my family, gathered around our one-square-yard wheat crop. We harvested that wheat, and still have the unhusked kernels in a Mason jar, to remind us of when we survived. I take this as a sign that perhaps we should try gardening again this year.
Yesterday was my birthday, and I turned 10, in dog years! A big milestone, though I don’t feel a day over 5. If you’re wondering, that translates to forty-nine-plus, which is the age I magically became fixed at, oh, about “plus” number of years ago. It’s great! You never get old. But you can still get the senior discount.
We had a lovely cookout with my family and a few good friends. The weather was great, the margaritas were great, the company was great.
My daughter Lexi painted me a landscape, based on a photo by our cousin Mike Sherrick, of farm country in Wooster, Ohio. This is where my mother, Mildred Sherrick Carver, grew up, though the farm depicted in this painting is, I believe, down the road from the old Sherrick farm.
The other big gift was almost too heavy to lift. My loving wife Allysen, her mom, and her brother and his family, all pitched in to get me this gorgeous 6-inch Celestron telescope. (There’s a story behind why this particular telescope, but that’s for another day.)
Charles S. Carver left us yesterday, after a long and often painful struggle with cancer. The academic world and the University of Miami lost a world-class, distinguished researcher in social psychology. Countless people lost a dear friend. His beloved wife Youngmee lost her husband. And I lost my only brother.
The final battle came on suddenly and unexpectedly, and we initially thought he would pull through it and recover. But that didn’t happen. Chuck wound up in the ICU on life support, and after several days on life support, when hope for recovery was gone, he was allowed to slip away peacefully. Youngmee was at his side, along with my wife Allysen and me, and several members of Youngmee’s family.
His professional accomplishments are legion, and he was awarded the American Psychological Association’s highest award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions “for significant theoretical and empirical contributions to our understanding of goal-directed behavior and self-regulation.” His publications include ten books and hundreds of articles, and his work has been cited an astounding 120,000 times in scientific publications by other researchers.
To his friends and colleagues, he was a curmudgeon and mentor loved by all. He was quietly and extraordinarily generous, both professionally and personally. He would have responded with an acerbic denial if you said that to him. A former football player and wrestler (at Huron High School, Huron, Ohio), he loved watching sports. He was the only person in the world who could get me to sit down and enjoy a football game on TV. He was utterly devoted to his dogs Tntn and Jahng, who it must be said are totally charming little rascals. He helped me and my family in ways I cannot even begin to describe, and I will not try. He was perhaps the first person in the world to believe in my writing. He loved good science fiction. Among his favorite writers were William Gibson, Rosemary Kirstein, N.K. Jemison, Connie Willis, and Linda Nagata.
To describe Chuck as a brother is difficult. As kids, we fought all the time. My mother once wrote back to relatives from a family vacation, “I have been asking myself why we didn’t leave the boys at home, or in cages.” Yeah, I can see that. He was two years older and stronger than I was, and I could never win. I bought a set of weights so I could get stronger, but I never liked using them, and he did. So guess who got stronger.
In high school, he started taking an interest in being a big brother in a good way, and he strong-armed me into joining the wrestling team. I didn’t like it that much at first, but it grew on me, and in time I became dedicated to the sport and valued it for the remainder of my high school years. It was because of Chuck that I ventured way out of my comfort zone for colleges and attended Brown University, where he was a junior. At some point during this period he asked me, “When are you going to start writing again?” And he nudged me for copies of my stories to read.
In our adulthood (when the hell did we become “adults”?) he was relentlessly helpful, especially after I had a family.
He waited many years for a chance to read my forthcoming book, The Reefs of Time. He only got halfway through the first book before he was struck down, which is supremely unfair. But that was long enough for him to find a word-o that had escaped all of my readers and proofreaders, and me.
I’m going miss him like hell.
Here’s Chuck and Youngmee, taken on a trip to Fiji, back 2009.
This was in some ways the most difficult trip of our annual series, partly because problems we thought we’d fixed last time came back to bite us again. Just about everything that could go wrong, did. Water, electric, plumbing, appliances, even unexpected repairs to the roof. The cistern pump that we spent so much time getting to run? It burned out and seized when the incoming power line kacked, giving us an impromptu brownout. The nice remote-operated driveway gate? The same.
Eventually we got most everything fixed, though some of it had to wait until after we’d returned home. Some of it ran right up to the wire on the last day—when, of course, we had to go to the airport at one in the morning to catch our flights home. Tempers frayed. Somehow we got through it.
Here’s the power company truck on station, putting in a new line to the house. They told Allysen they were one of only two truck crews providing emergency services to the whole city of Ponce. They did a great job. Allysen and our neighbor Frances cheer them on.
Did I mention the guards? Because the old hotel just up the street is finally slated for renovation, they hired a security crew to keep kids and carousers out of the property. Imagine our surprise to encounter armed security guards right outside our gate. They were all ex-cops or current cops, and generally a very genial group. They had nothing to do but chat with us and our workers, and take care of the stray dog that adopted them. Startling at first sight, they gradually came to seem a friendly presence.
Our friend Crystal joined us from California for the last few days, and wielded a mighty paint brush. (Crystal was once my housemate, and it was she who introduced me to Allysen, more than a few years ago.) We promised her one day of fun, and were glad we had, because it forced us to take a day of fun for ourselves. We drove across the island and walked around Old San Juan for an afternoon. It was lovely.
Here’s a whimsical sculpture chair that was surprisingly comfortable to sit in. We called it the catbird seat.
And here’s a stray kitten we named Stet, who was getting a little bolder, day by day. I hope she makes out okay. Another week or two, and we would have brought her home, for sure.