An Indoor Girl

Look, I’ve hiked the Cinque Terra, ridden a donkey up the cliffs of Crete, and waterskied down the Colorado River. I trekked through the Mayan jungle and climbed Tikal. I hiked the pine forest above Rio Caliente, scaled Nevada Falls, and climbed rickety ladders to peer into ancient painted caves in … [Read more...]

I Tell Stories About Her

For My Middle Sister Liz It's now 13 years since she danced out of our lives, ain't that amazing... and still, I forget sometimes that she's gone. I go to call her: I want her opinion on a difficulty with someone, or I can't remember how long to cook a soft-boiled egg. I want her to read this … [Read more...]

A Chicken Story

It's been four years since Kim left. She didn't want to leave and I didn't want her to go, so we left it at that. “Will you leave me something in your will? No one's ever left me anything—mainly because most in my family didn’t have much to leave anyone, so just once," I said, "I’d like to … [Read more...]

How Did I Get Here?

In 1943, my father exchanged his iceman’s uniform for a suit and tie. Union Ice Company was having financial difficulties, and Dad had enough sense to get out of the cold. Offered a management position with Sprouse Reitz, he had the option of running a five-and-dime in Sonora or Sonoma. What a … [Read more...]

Final Migration

Elizabeth Ann “Liz/Betty” (Clemens) Duchi 1939 - 2004 My sister Liz knew everything about everything—and what she didn’t know—she made up. Her library was lined with books from architecture, antique lamps and art nouveau to tomes on history, the human body and Henry VIII. She also had every … [Read more...]

“It’ll Be Fun!” she says

“You know what we need to do?” she says. “Let’s take Deb to the coast for oysters. It’ll be fun!” she says. We'll take the scenic back road; the drive is beautiful,” she says. I love the coast and I love oysters so I agree it’s a grand idea. However, I have a brain lapse and forget about the … [Read more...]

Princess Imelda

Big Sur, California. Camping is everything I remember, which is a lot of work, kind of grubby, and not particularly comfortable. Other then Satchel having poison oak from stem to stern from his camping trip the week before, and Princess Imelda having a meltdown because she had to wear her tennis … [Read more...]

Elegy to My Father

Carl John Clemens 1905 – 1986 Born on a Minnesota farm, you milked cows, picked corn, and shocked wheat. You hated farming; that’s why you left Minnesota, that, and your mother always telling you what to do. She cried when you left home; you were only sixteen. You had nine siblings, all with … [Read more...]

To My Wife-In-Law

Rebecca, the best thing that happened to our family was you. How could I not care for someone who loved my children as much as you did. You became my wife-in-law and the boys’ other mother. You filled in pieces that Bob and I didn’t have the ability to bring. I became the father, and you, the … [Read more...]

Conversations With the Boy

Looking Good ~ During a birthday party for Brooke, I sat in the corner hanging out with the little kids. They were each piping up with how old they were when Satchel reaches up and pats me on the head and beams, “My Oma is 62, but she looks really good for her age. She could pass for 60!” November … [Read more...]

I Like Kids, Preferably Fried

Char Girl I had my four-year-old grandkidlet on Saturday. We’re making cookies and she begs to take over mixing the flour. “I do it, I do it. Let me, let me.” Cleaning up, as there was now batter everywhere, we put a load of towels in the washer. She stops me again with, “I do it. I do it! Let … [Read more...]

Dead People, Sparkle Fairies, and Hitler

“Oma, there’s dead people under those rocks, you know.” I glance over my shoulder to see what Satchel is talking about. My four-year-old grandson is commenting from his car seat about the small cemetery to our left on East Napa. “I know Satchel, that’s where they put our bodies when we … [Read more...]

Meltdown and Matching Red Noses

My grandson is three, and this is the second time I have him for an extended period at night. Brooke and Matt are in San Francisco, returning around 11:00. We spend the afternoon and evening at my house doing all the things we love to do together: cooking, eating, and reading the books I read to … [Read more...]

Murderers and Fortune Cookies

Thinking it would be fun, Satchel and I took a day trip to San Francisco’s Chinatown, Ghirardelli Square, and Pier 39, and made it there and back, though barely. Going, we missed the Larkspur Ferry by ten minutes, so waited for the next one. Finally boarding, we sat on the windy upper outside … [Read more...]

Awaiting a Grandson

I wrote this to my son Matt (who taught me about bandages, patience, and love) on his thirty-third birthday (1-14-2003) and who was awaiting the birth of his first child, a boy. That child, who is now nearly as tall as me—who can clean a fish, shoot a basket, and draw not only a cow … [Read more...]

Sam: A Dog Story

It was the worst day of his life, and I could hear the despair in his voice. Matt was calling from the emergency animal hospital in Sacramento. My son and his wife were on their way to the Sierras for a camping weekend. Pulling alongside on Highway 80, a woman frantically signaled them to pull over. … [Read more...]

My Friend Kim Heddy

Kim joined our office as an agent in 1994. As it turned out we had a lot in common: we both loved real estate, ice cream, and dark chocolate. In 2002 she became a partner in my real estate practice: she took over showing property to my clients, which meant I no longer got lost wandering around town … [Read more...]


Elizabeth Ann Duchi Dec 3, 1939 - Oct 8, 2004 Sixty-four years ago my middle sister was born: Elizabeth Ann "Betty/Liz" Clemens. She was married forty-six years, had four children, and was the funniest person I knew. A year ago she developed a wracking cough. Eight months ago she was diagnosed … [Read more...]

Ten Years Have Slipped By

My Sister Liz Yesterday I found out my sister is dying. I know, thousands of people die every day—but they're not my sister. She's had this constant wracking cough for three months and we finally got her to go to a doctor. The first one said it was allergies and sent her home with nasal spray. When … [Read more...]

Shaken, Not Stirred

All right already, so it takes an earthquake to get me out of bed. After 10 days nursing the flu, I wake up to my house rolling one way, then rocking the other. The earth is jolting and roaring. My bedroom is upstairs where there is extra sway. The door to my upper deck has blown open and … [Read more...]

Dragons and Sparkles

Satchel and Temple • July 2009, Sonoma, California Brooke and the kids are visiting in Sonoma for a month. My son and his family moved to Vancouver, Canada last year—they had the nerve to not only move there, but to take my grandchildren with them—and this is their first time back. Satchel is six … [Read more...]

Meant to Be

At first, it was to be just the two of them at city hall. Then, it expanded to include our immediate family: the wedding couple, Matt and Brooke and their kids, my sons’ father with his girlfriend along with two of his former wives (a family tradition... I’m #1 and Rebecca is #2, but with great … [Read more...]

Cripple Creek to Salt Lake City and Back

Vacation Postscript (July 27, 2006) My brother, his wife Marian, and I just returned from our fifth road trip of gathering family history: searching through county records, newspaper archives, and historical museums hunting for birth and death records, local articles, pictures, deeds, wills and old … [Read more...]

On Being Four

Birthday Letter to My Son: You were four when I picked you up from school, and I could see that you were upset. “Mom, do you know what happens to us when we die!” “Do tell.” “Charlie sang a song about John Henry, and when he died, they buried him in the ground!” “Well, what did you think … [Read more...]