Our friend RD, of New Dharma Bums, posted a very moving tribute to her father, this morning. I realized that I, too, have a special reason to commemorate today. Thirty three years ago, in 1973, my first child, Annie, was born. She was a baby who was very much wanted and longed for. At the time we were living in Alberta, Canada, on a huge cattle ranch. It was snowy and (of course) freezing cold on March 14. My labor started at 6:30 am, and continued all day until she was born at about 9:30 pm, no anaesthesia for us! Hinton, Alberta, had a tiny hospital. My doctors were a married Scottish couple, very old-school, who enforced the hospital rules rigidly. They insisted that mother and newborn stay in the hospital (mom in bed) for 5 days after the birth. Baby was brought every four hours for feeding, then returned to the nursery immediately. There were only 2 babies in the neonatal unit and I quickly learned to recognize my daughter's crying, vs. that of the little Canadian Indian boy next to her. I begged the nurses to bring her to me when she cried, but - doctor's orders - they refused. I remember myself sitting in bed crying, furious at the whole scene, and tortured by the knowledge that my new baby was crying and I couldn't comfort her. Well, we finally got out of that place and things went better from then on.
For the first year of Annie's life, we continued to live on the ranch in Alberta. All her grandparents (and Anne Sliker, for whom she was named) made trips up to meet her, and she was the light of all of our lives. She was a happy, precocious baby - walked at 9 months, talked very early, had a huge vocabulary, and a playful, easy-going disposition. In 1974 the ranch went through some changes, and we decided to move back to Santa Cruz. We lived in a couple of rental places here, and in 1975 bought our current home. A few months later, Annie's first brother, Philip, was born. She was 2 1/2 years old. A couple of years later, in 1978, a third child, anoather boy, Tommy, joined the family. Along the way, her dad and I divorced, a time that was hard on all of us.Annie grew up as an active and creative little girl. She did well in school, had a large group of friends, helped with her little brothers, loved animals, was very artistic, and especially loved helping other people. In 1989, when the huge earthquake ripped Santa Cruz apart, and we were all camping out in the back yard, stunned by what had happened, Annie organized a group of high school kids to go around the city helping people clean up their losses. She was not one to sit still and feel sorry for people. She volunteered in nursing homes, babysat for countless children, sang in choirs. Most notably, in her teenage years, she became a peace activist and travelled to Russia on three separate occasions, learning to speak a fair amount of Russian along the way. She was involved with Peace Child and other international youth organizations. It was not unusual to see her making speeches at peace rallies, singing solos with the Peace Child choir, and leading marches and demonstrations. She was really somebody to be proud of!After high school, Annie chose to attend UC Santa Cruz. Here she became active as a peer educator in the AIDS prevention program. She put on "rubber-ware" parties in the dorms, worked with the campus health officials, and even did a radio broadcast about her work on AIDS prevention. In 1992, one night, she was swinging on a rope from a redwood tree, out over a ravine, at UCSC and she fell and shattered both wrists. It was mothers day, and I got a phone call at about midnight that she was going into surgery - ugh! This ultimately forced her to drop out of school for that quarter, and instead of returning to campus she moved on to San Francisco.
Up there, she continued to work as a sex educator, several years as a high-end nanny, and eventually as an AIDS specialist. In her current job she works for the University of California, San Francisco, Medical School on an AIDS research project. Her responsibilities include being a resource person for newly diagnosed AIDS patients and their families, as well as running the research protocols for her boss's project. She recently moved out of the city, with her partner into a beautiful home on a creek. I will see her in a few days to give her a big hug in person. The two photos above are both old ones - I don't have a good current photo to post. In the meantime, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNIE! I love you.