Aside from the not so subtle strain of narcissism that runs throughout, one of the reasons for writing this blog (at least from that part of my brain that Freud* called the super ego) is to demonstrate that most federal trial judges are quite ordinary people. Most of us do not deserve veneration. Most of us got our positions like the poor sap struck by lightning. We have a few strengths, but many more foibles. Relevant to this post, we have families (both close and extended) and we are tasked with lugging every piece of the baggage that goes with them–just like everyone else.
I think about my brother. He worked all his life as a railroad engineer until they found the massive small cell carcinoma in his lung. All the studies said he would die from that horrible disease and very soon. His union, for which my brother had devoted much of his free time, sent out the big guns on Labor Day following the diagnosis so that brother could be honored in one last Labor Day parade. They let him drive a big fancy convertible with his name stenciled on the side while the officials sat in the back smoking cigarettes oblivious to the irony. Against all odds, and with the help of Cleveland Clinic and others, the brother did not die but lives still, proving, I suppose, that second-hand smoke in Cadillac convertibles is no problem.
I think about my sisters. I am in awe of the one who adopted the two special needs children born to a schizophrenic prostitute from a part of Cleveland that is a hell hole. I think of the troubles she and her wonderful husband suffered through raising a stunningly beautiful but emotionally labile mulatto girl and another tiny little girl-child with a genetic growth disease, autism and severe mental illness.
I think about the sister who was born when I was 16 while my mother began working hard on her firm commitment to alcoholism. I remember that little girl running about the funeral of our mother with her “Mary Janes” and the anger I felt for a mother who would bring a child into the world with all the horrific hallmarks of fetal alcohol syndrome. I am amazed that this open and tender little girl succeeded against all odds and I am ashamed that I did nothing to help her.
I think about my own children and their children. The video from Petra that we got last night (thanking Joan for sending Petra a video of a Labor Day party with Joan’s fantastically talented family) reminds me that love for a child of a child cannot be adequately described in words. I laugh out loud at Petra’s reference to “stinky feet Grampa.”
I think about my law clerks, my affection sometimes bordering on love for them and how they have become part of my extended family. I think about Mary, the first law clerk that I hired and the e-mail I got from her today, reminding me of the past and sending photos that force me to do so. I am catapulted back to 1988 when Mary began adopting children from Korea. I think about holding the naturalization ceremony for one of them. I think about our daughter Lisa spending summers as the children’s day-time caregiver while Mary worked for me and her husband flew across the country to get a Master’s degree from prestigious Middlebury College. Twenty five years later, I look at the photos of those years, and I think about time and the wisdom of Loren Eiseley.
On Labor Day 2013, that’s what one federal trial judge thought about. They are not grand thoughts, nor are they even significant, but they are real.
*Freud plays a big part in a post that will appear soon. I suppose that is why he is on my mind.