Category Archives: Andy

Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past

Next week will mark the first Thanksgiving that Andy will be without both his parents, which will make it one of the more difficult years to give thanks. I still remember the Thanksgiving we had the year his Mom died. It was Andy’s second holiday with my family, and he’d already won everyone over. We sat in the Ko house, where I’d spent almost every Thanksgiving and Christmas since I was born, and it was one of the last times both our families were relatively intact. 

I think back to those who were still with us then – Andy’s parents, my grandmother, my Uncle Roberto – and I wonder if we did our best to realize how lucky we were. Suzie’s brothers were talking to Andy when we got the call that his Mom had taken a turn for the worse and we had to leave early to get back to the hospital. Our Thanksgivings would never be the same. 

As much as we once loved the holidays, there is always a slight dampening of the festivities when you think back on what has been lost, and what we’re always in danger of losing. More than a dampening of the eyes, it’s a dampening of the spirit and the happiness that is often afforded innocence and youth. 

In the darkness of the early morning, before the sun has risen and the world feels a little lighter, I watch in vain for the cardinal to visit our backyard. I hope it returns by the time Andy wakes. I hope he finds it, and that he finds some small comfort in the season. 

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Some Birthdays Are Quiet

A cardinal has been visiting our seven-sons flower tree for the past week, alighting among its salmon seed-heads. We’ve never seen them feast on this plant before, but there it was, a little crimson beacon against a bright but sky. Andy’s Mom must be watching over him during his birthday month. There are always signs that lost loved ones are around, and as I watched the magnificent bird come back for a few days I realized that this will be a difficult time for Andy.

He has never been one for a big birthday celebration. He’d prefer dinner with a select few at his favorite restaurant. This year he wanted something even more low-key: a dinner at home with no one. As it was his birthday, I obliged, even though I was a bit puzzled because he usually wants at least a dinner out. Then I understood: this was his first birthday without his father too. 

I did what I could. A big bouquet of pink roses. Tickets to a show at Proctor’s. A slew of birthday cards. A cake and a lemon pie. And a shrimp cocktail – a favorite of his. He was appreciative, but I could tell he was down. The first birthday as an orphan, no matter how old one gets, must make for a conflicting state of emotions. I felt a profound sadness in being so helpless to make anything better for him. 

The next day he was in better spirits. Temperatures had risen. The sun was out. Our pool was heated and might just give us one more day of use. A chipmunk sat on the back patio, perched on a lawn chair. Life continued on, and I realized that Andy must feel a sense of relief that another birthday was done. Sometimes the pressure and expectation of a day to be happy and fun takes away all of its genuine joy. 

We moved on with the hope that next year will be better. 

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A Husband’s Birthday

Two score and a decade and half of years ago, a baby was born who would give his parents, myself, and everyone who knows him much joy. This is Andy’s birthday and, as is his desire, it will be a low-key event, without fanfare or pomp, but I’m still going to make some ado about it here because while he may not want a big bash, he’s more than worthy of some public gushing and online accolades. (He’s on Twitter and Instagram – @drewvanwagenen – so show him some birthday love and tell him I sent you.)

Since he’s not big on having his photo taken, he’s not on this site as often as he should be, but his spirit imbues just about everything I do, informing all of these posts in ways not often seen or blatantly explained. The truth is that I wouldn’t be half of who I am without him in my life, and maybe that should be said a little more often. Perhaps somewhat carelessly on my part, I’ve always assumed that everyone knew that. On this, his birthday, I’m taking a moment to confirm it.

Happy Birthday Drew – and many happy returns of the day!

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A Father’s New Journey

My father-in-law passed away early on the morning of June 14. He will be buried on what would have been his 91st birthday, and there’s a beautiful bit of poetry in that. A small glimmer of hope and celebration in this ultimate rebirth, and I hope there’s a sliver of healing in the midst of such profound sadness.

He had always been kind to me, no matter what was going on in the world, and that meant more than I could ever fully express. Andy used to take him to see the car shows at the Saratoga Automobile Museum. On those mornings I would gratefully step aside while father and son spent the day together. One year they brought back a photo of a ridiculous Country Squire station wagon – and told me that the monstrously wood-paneled beast was ours. I didn’t believe it until it arrived a few days later. (Despite my pleas for burglary, it still resides in our side-yard.)

The following year, they attended another show, and when they came back they had a photo of Andy’s father pointing to another car, as if Andy was getting a bride for his Frankenstein. I was mustering every ounce of self-control to not lose my shit in front of his Dad when he said that he got me. Every time they went to a car show thereafter, Tom would pose with a crazy car and Andy would send the pic to me. Once I got his sense of humor, and he had a wonderful one, I felt like we bonded.

He got along swimmingly with my own father, and at gatherings at our home they would often sit together and talk. There was lots of laughter between them, right until the last days, and I know that my Dad will miss his friend.

He remembered me every Christmas and birthday, and he treated me as well as he treated his own children. He didn’t have to say anything to make me chuckle. It was a roll of his eyes, or a hysterically incredulous ‘are you crazy?’ look that could elicit a howl of laughter. He was sly in his digs, and witty when he wanted to be. There was a thoughtfulness in the way he spoke, and in the way he interacted with people. By the time he reached 90, he took it all with a grain of salt, but even in his last days there were glimmers of the hard-working man who brought my husband into the world.

On his last night, his father showed Andy a glimpse of who he had been. He mustered the energy to pull his Boston Red Sox cap onto his head. He tugged on the bill a bit, as if he was about to throw a pitch, and let a quick smile cross his face. He was ready for a new inning.

We will miss you, Dad.

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Boston Wedding Anniversary #7 – Part 9

We remained on the bench soaking in the scene for a little while. We still had a few minutes until brunch at Bistro du midi (whose tables overlooked the Public Garden) and neither of us wanted to rush away from a scene so perfectly reminiscent of our original wedding day. To our left, a path led to the Taj Hotel and the grand suite we were lucky enough to have lived in for that special weekend. (For our ten year anniversary we may have to recreate such luxury, and 2020 isn’t that far off…)

Ahead of us, the foot bridge connected both sides of the small pond. Sweetly-scented fruit trees bloomed on each side, and the bridge seemed to float on clouds of beauty. What a difference a day makes, though there had been beauty in the rain too.

After brunch we walked along Boylston Street, with Andy indulging a few quick shopping stops, before making our way back along the Southwest Corridor walkway. It was also in bloom – the bright white of the native American dogwood, with its enchanting “blooms” resting elegantly against leafless bark, and the deep purple of a hybrid lilac, just finishing up its season. Frittilaria nodded its widely varying flowers, and a few tulips opened wide for the sun. Everything was starting over again.

Back at the condo, we packed everything up for the ride home, including our anniversary peony.

I didn’t want to leave, but we did, with the memory of a perfect weekend in our pockets.

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Boston Wedding Anniversary #7 – Part 8

Our actual wedding anniversary dawned as it did seven years ago: a brilliant blue sky, a few puffy clouds, and something that had been missing most of this anniversary weekend – the sun! A strong breeze shook off the dampness of the previous days, and we headed out for a brunch. On the way, the Boston Public Garden was resplendent in the sunshine, and we meandered through its beauty to the sounds of an erhu.

The pale pink petals of flowering cherries fluttered in the breeze. We sat on a bench near the trio of cherry trees next to which our wedding ceremony had taken place. In the pond nearby, a family of ducks swam. Three small ducklings made their way in the water. One of the adults was teaching them how to take off, and the little ones mimicked the quick flapping of wings and made small motions into the air right above the water. It was thrilling to see.

There was not a more perfect place to have a wedding, if one was lucky enough to get a day like this. The edge of the pond was covered with cherry blossom petals, and more ducks floated in the water. A few dogs and children watched the scene with keenly-interested eyes. In the distance, the swan’s head bobbed in and out of the water – half of the time its graceful neck curved elegantly above the water, the other half saw its rump rising skyward. This was happiness.

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Boston Wedding Anniversary #7 – Part 7

The show was amazing – perhaps even more powerful than its original Broadway inception, which is no easy feat. By all means get your tickets now and go. When we emerged from the theater, the sun was out, and just about to go down. The breeze had turned cooler, and as dinner wasn’t scheduled for a while, we ducked into the newly-redone Aquitaine and sidled up to the handsome bar.

The friendly gentlemen who was welcoming guests ordered us two short champagne glasses in honor of our anniversary, in one smooth, dapper motion, and we toasted a day that was turning into one very happy affair. A happily tipsy affair too, as I followed it up with a sidecar. When the weather teeters between cool and cold, and a spring snap tugs us closer to winter than summer, I love a stomach-warming sidecar, with the heat of its cognac, and the reassuring zest of its citrus kiss. We had them at the Taj on the night of our rehearsal dinner, and I save them for special occasions like this so as to preserve their meaning.

It was the day of the Kentucky Derby, and women in fascinators and men in bow ties prowled the beautiful space. We said our thanks to the gentleman who was kind enough to offer champagne, and headed over to Boston Chops, where more fascinators and boat hats awaited us.

In the dim light of an intimate table, we clinked glasses before our perfectly-rendered steaks arrived. On this Boston night, the world felt like a magical, sparkling dream of carefree fancy and elegant delight. I realigned the beaded bracelets on my wrist, adjusted the sequin-embroidered edge of a scarf, and gave up silent gratitude to our good fortune.

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Boston Wedding Anniversary #7 – Part 1

It began in the rain, but that’s usually an auspicious sign, particularly for wedding-related items, such as 7th anniversaries. We traveled to Boston to celebrate ours, and arrived in a downpour of badly-needed wet stuff. For me, it was mostly an annoyance, and it was so heavy that my Friday shopping plans were put on hold. Instead, we padded around the cozy condo before it was time to head to drinks and dinner.

There were cheese and crackers, and a pear that was just ripe enough to eat. There was also a perfect peony just beginning to open up on the table, left for us by my Mom. Somehow, and often in the most unlikely of ways, the peony returns to help us celebrate this weekend. This one was almost magical in the way it unfurled its color-shifting beauty – gradually shifting from the deep pink hue you see here to a range of gorgeous shades that I’ll reveal as we go along.

A special night calls for a special statement necklace. The statement I wanted to make, however, didn’t shout, so I pulled just a few strands of turquoise stones from the pile. It’s so much better than a tie.

As Cole Porter standards played on the stereo, and the light inside became brighter than the fading light outside, and the continuous sound of rain pittered and pattered on the windows, Andy ordered an Uber to bring us to Kenmore for our dining adventures. Our wedding anniversary weekend had begun…

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A Car Radio Show

Today Andy is headed back on the air for a bonus radio show on his favorite topic: cars and automobiles. After the usual 10 AM -2 PM airing of HomoRadio, tune in to WRPI 91.5 FM until 5 PM or so to hear Dr. Ray Werking, Sean McLaughlin and Andy discussing all things related to vintage cars and the like. The last time he did a five hour stretch or so on the radio, it was actually much mor interesting, and enlightening, than I anticipated, so I look forward to more of the same. You should too.

(As per usual, I have but one Madonna request – ‘Body Shop‘ – her only car-themed tune in three decades of great songs.)

Pictured is a 1976 MGB convertible, courtesy of Andy’s historical record of all the cars he’s ever owned.

 

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Andy As A Baby

Since the first ‘Andy as a kid’ post was so popular, here’s a bonus one of some more baby photos. It’s the perfect dose of cute and cuddly for the middle of the day.

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Dedicated to the One I Love

The main problem with Valentine’s Day is that it tries to negate the love that should be present and celebrated throughout the year. To that end, here are a few photos of the guy that I love, seen through a number of years. Cute kids often grow into cute adults, and Andy was a very cute kid. I even like his questionable shag/stripe phase (not an easy look to pull off).

We found this treasure trove of photographs while cleaning up a few weeks ago, and though I don’t often enjoy looking back, I paused to peruse these gems. Seeing your husband as a little kid is a heartwarming thing.

I’m not sure how he’ll take to his (much) younger self being paraded on this salacious blog, but the perennial rule of marriage is that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. Besides, what’s not to love here?

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Happy Birthday to My Husband

A very special birthday shout-out to Andy, on the one month of the year when he is not responsible for making someone else’s cake. (Well, almost – he already made a few for the other birthday peeps of October.) As the great unheralded support system in my life, he is also the force that allows me to focus on creative endeavors like this blog to keep my sanity. But much more than that, he’s just a fun and warm guy to be around, and whenever I have run into trouble with the world, when I’m feeling sad and disheartened by all the madness around, I find comfort and safety with him. There is something to be said for the safe haven that love like that provides.

On this day, please join me in wishing Andy a very Happy Birthday – and many happy returns of the day!

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Another Birthday, Another Police Run-in

Who would have guessed that I’m not the lead-foot of the family anymore? As we sped through New Jersey, en route to our Rehoboth Beach vacation, Andy suddenly lets off the gas and says we’re getting pulled over. I’m just waking up. He says when he started to ease off he was going 87 miles per hour, so who knows what he was clocked at.

{For the record, in New Jersey I was only stopped for speeding once: the police officer came up to my window and asked me if I knew I was speeding. ‘No, officer, I thought I was going with the flow of traffic.’ His response: ‘Blowing by everyone in the passing lane is not going with the flow of traffic.’ Oopsie.}

Now it was Andy’s turn in the hot seat. “Tell him you were an officer,” I whisper as Mr. Police Officer approached the passenger side. I smile and Andy spits out his Guilderland cop info, showing his badge. “What is ‘Gilder-Land?'” he asks, as any reasonable person would. Andy explains. I fear it won’t be enough, so I turn to the officer and ask, “Would it help if it’s my birthday?” and I quickly show him my driver’s license. “There it is, 8/24,” he says before telling us he’ll be right back.

I’m more amused than anything else, because Andy doesn’t usually get himself into these predicaments. I’m already texting everyone I know with the news as the officer returns with a written warning, a smile, and a wish for me to have a happy birthday, then we are on our way again. A birthday vacation in Rehoboth Beach has begun with an almost-bang…

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Our True Anniversary

Some couples – particularly same-sex couples – have multiple anniversaries. Because it was not legal for us to get married for so long, we had no choice. In our instance, we celebrate our “real” anniversary today – for it was on this day that we met. That was sixteen years ago.

A lot has happened in the intervening time, and I wouldn’t change any of it.

The Night We Met

The Day We Married

Happy Anniversary, Andy!

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Andy & The Mustang

This photo tickles me on a number of levels.

First, it’s Andy.

Second, it’s HomoRadio.

And third, it’s Dr. Ray’s Mustang.

We stole this shot on the fly on our way home from the Albany Pride Festival.

The perfect end-note to a few fun days.

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