I just got back from the memorial service for my friend Diane. It was great meeting lots of people that were important to her, and seeing some people that I hadn’t seen in a while. Seth, Chandra, and Janice. Also some former coworkers, Karen, Lois, Cynthia, and Jackie.
During the service her brother, Tamir, asked for people to come up and share stories about Diane. When I went to the memorial service for my friend Richard I was conflicted about speaking, but after the service was over I really regretted it. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. What follows is a more coherent and embellished version of what I said earlier today.
Diane and I became coworkers in 1987, when I was 27 and she 35. Her son, Seth, was about 11. Aside from immediately liking Diane (who wouldn’t?? If you didn’t immediately like Diane, I’m guessing you and I wouldn’t be friends), I was impressed by her son and their relationship. You see, at the time, I was pretty dead set against having kids. The reasons were complex, but it boiled down to me not knowing, with a high degree of certainty, how to raise a kid. Here was Diane, this single mom, who didn’t make a lot of money, raising a boy in a place where a lot of boys took the wrong path in life, and many of them had two parents. Why were she and Seth any different? Why was their relationship so good? What was her secret?
Diane’s office was in an out-of-the-way part of our office. She handled shipping, back in the days when software was still shipped. This is important, because it made it easier to hide out in her office and have long conversations. If I wasn’t too busy, I’d be in her office a few times a week. These conversations where always punctuated with laughter. Diane laughed effortlessly and it was infectious. What’d we talk about? I don’t remember the details, but I do remember we talked a lot about Seth, current events, politics, and what ever we wanted. Diane and I were kindred spirits in a lot of things in life. As I said we talked a lot about Seth, but in particular, we talked about how she raised Seth. The nitty gritty, as it were. I found through these conversations that I had a good “parental” head on my shoulders, because I agreed with most (all?) of what Diane did and said about child rearing. To me it was plain she was a good mother and she was raising Seth to be a good man.
While I said I was against having kids of my own, I always really liked other people’s children. Seth was no exception. I loved the times when he was around. It was yet another excuse to hang out in Diane’s office. It was this association with Diane, and a couple of other people in my life, that turned my “I don’t want kids” into “hey, I can do this.” I can tell you that Diane had a larger impact than the others, though. If I’m honest, I learned or confirmed most of my parenting skills from Diane. The confirmation part was important to me, mainly because I wasn’t willing to throw the dice on raising a child. I wanted to know before I started. I didn’t want to leave it to chance.
When in my mid-30’s my wife started to suggest that we make one of our own, it was partly because of Diane that I said yes. My son is 12. From the moment he was born he has been the most important thing in my life, just like Seth was to Diane. I can’t imagine life without him. It’s possible that if I had never met Diane I would not have answered yes to my wife 13 years ago. For that, I will be eternally grateful to Diane. I never told Diane this. I wish I had.
I also want to mention that Diane’s sister-in-law Janice would sometimes visit, and this, too, was an excuse for me to hang out in Diane’s office. I really have fond memories of Diane, Janice and I talking away the time back there. I’m glad I was able to give Janice a big hug today. It meant a lot.
The other regret that I have is that I didn’t spend more time with Diane in the last few years. We talked occasionally, but not nearly enough. Each time we talked we’d say we needed to get together for lunch, but the distance between us (Oakland to Antioch) and our busy lives was an insurmountable barrier, it seems.