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Archive for the ‘In Memoriam’ Category

For My Mom

Infinite thanks to Fehmeen for giving a voice to these words at the service this morning.  I owe you more than I can ever hope to repay you.

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Right around this time every year, my mom would come down to my classroom at La Entrada. While I would busy myself with putting up bulletin boards and setting up the general aesthetics of my room, she would sit in her usual spot at the circular table in the back of the room near the water faucet. She would take my six class rosters for the upcoming school year and write down the names of every single student on file folders. When she finished that job, my mom would alphabetize the folders and place them in the filing cabinet behind my desk. Nobody but me would see the fruits of her days labor but trust me when I tell you that without her organizational assistance, my classroom would have been an unmitigated disaster area.

Not only did my mom spend the morning working on those files, she also brought lunch for us as well. Turkey sandwiches on sliced sourdough rolls were the typical order of the day. Her culinary skills didn’t begin or end with that sandwich, either. Ask anyone who has eaten her homemade Christmas toffee or perhaps you can speak with any of my friends from Allen School who used to trade their Twinkies with me for one of my mom’s famous chocolate chip cookies, they can tell you. And don’t even get me started on the dinners she would prepare on a nightly basis. All that I’m going to say is that nobody said no to seconds.

Once we had finished our lunches, my mom would watch as I opened up my annual back-to-school care package. Every year she would fill a box with essential teacher supplies such as lozenges, Altoids, Lifesavers, pens and pencils, and of course, my personal favorite, Swedish Fish. Care packages like this have been a Judy Picetti tradition for decades. My college roommates would eagerly await my arrival home from class so they could be amongst the first people to taste one of those aforementioned chocolate chip cookies. Not a single holiday would go by without my mom bestowing upon me, my dad, and during these past five years, Fehmeen, an appropriately themed gift, that, without a doubt, would include my beloved Swedish Fish.

Being a teacher herself, my mom knew the importance of having fun in the classroom. Former students of mine who have enjoyed playing the game of Fizz Buzz can thank my mom for teaching it to me. She would consistently introduce me to new games like Quiddler and proceed to consistently beat me at them time after time. Without mercy. All the while smiling.

And even these past few years when my four-walled classroom had given way to ALS Boy dot com, my mom continued to help me out, not necessarily with file folders, but with the typing on my blog. She would feed me my oatmeal every weekday morning. Emma’s holiday packages got bigger while Fehmeen’s and mine got smaller. The games changed from card games like Quiddler to predicting how many games Barry Zito would win this season. Through it all, though, one thing remained exactly the same. My mom was always there for me and for that, I say thank you for all the Swedish Fish. I love you.

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Missing My Friend Carla

The first time I ever heard of Carla was back when I had just started writing my blog in August 2008.   My friend — and frequent commenter — Traci told me about this other recently diagnosed ALS patient who had this amazing blog that she thought I would enjoy and relate to.  Well , Tra was correct on both accounts.  Carla’s posts were often hilarious,  usually quite thought-provoking,  and always well written.   Add to that the fact that she had the same crappy disease that  I did I knew that I wanted to get in touch with her.

Because of my lurker tendencies I was a bit apprehensive to put a comment on her blog so I acquired her e-mail from a friend who had studied acting under Carla.  I was very pleased to see that she had sent me a warm and engaging reply.   In fact she had even read my blog.   Her response prompted me to feel just a little less alone in this suddenly strange new world.

I kept up with her blog whenever a new post would appear but it wasn’t until I accepted an invitation to appear on KTVU’s Labor Day Telethon that I decided to contact Carla once again.   I had read that she had recently taped a segment for the same program and I wanted to find out which questions the interviewer had asked her.   Carla replied with a list of questions as well as with an offer to participate in an upcoming project that she was planning.

The two of us actually met chair to chair on Labor Day in KTVU’s green room prior to the broadcast.   We talked like old friends about anything and everything.   I got to meet her son Mac and she got to meet Emma as well as all of the members of my extended entourage.

I saw Carla a few months later in November when I went over to her home in Berkeley for a photo shoot.   This woman — who was battling the same disease that I was fighting — had managed to plan and organize this monumental philanthropic endeavor: The Always Looking Sexy Calendar.

The scene at her house that day will never escape my mind.   There was this undeniable buzz and energy surrounding all things Carla.   She was in complete control of the proceedings yet the spirit of cooperation and corroboration was quite evident.   The atmosphere and vibe felt incredibly supportive there that day and I could tell that it wasn’t a one day occurrence.

Carla and I were planning to make a Youtube video together showing us competing in a kind of ALS Olympic games such as eating and drinking and failing quite spectacularly and humorously.   It would have been freaking funny.   Sadly it was around that time that Carla started to not feel so well.   Our plan to go viral unfortunately will never happen but trust me when I tell you had it happened it would have been cool and spectacular .

But then again so was Carla.

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My Friend Glenn

I met Glenn for the first time in November 2007 at a parent teacher conference for his son. Like me, Glenn was having some neurological issues of his own. Within a few months, we were both diagnosed with ALS.

The next time I saw Glenn was every Thursday night in April and May 2008 when we attended a Mindfulness Meditation class at Stanford together. The classes were interesting and informative but I looked forward to our weekly pre-class dinner at Lulu’s most of all.

The last time I saw Glenn was at the ALS Clinic at UCSF in July 2009. We talked about getting the two Emmas — his dog, my daughter — together some time in the future. When our respective doctor’s visits were over, we waved good-bye to each other.

I miss my friend Glenn Mills. He was a good man.

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The Other Side of Life

Fehmeen and her sisters and brother lost their grandmother this past weekend. Iqbal and his siblings lost their mother and Nasseem lost his wife and partner of sixty-plus years.

Zahra Nasseem Khan was a kind, compassionate, and cordial woman who brought joy to her family and friends. She enjoyed traveling, socializing, and spending time with the people she loved.

The world is a less illuminated place without her here. Good bye, Mama.

Mama, Papa, and Emma

Mama, Papa, and Emma

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