Tag Archives: quackers

A letter to my nephew on his sixth birthday

Dear Jack,

You have no idea how hard it was not to start this letter with something like My Dearest Quackadoo or Darling Quackers or even Dear Little Jackie Bear. But I didn’t want to embarrass you right at the start, so I saved that for the first sentence. You’re welcome.

Pool boy

Happy birthday! You are six, sweet boy, and I have been so excited to write you this letter. It’s hard to believe another year has gone by. You rocked kindergarten like a pro and are headed to first grade in a mere month. I promise that if you invite me to school for any events I will probably not call you Quackers in front of your friends.


Highlights from the past year include you and me picking out Halloween costumes. This is an activity I have enjoyed since you were a baby and I bought you your first prison inmate costume, complete with tattooed sleeves. Faced with fluffy choices like cupcakes and ice cream cones, you rejected convention and brilliantly decided that Fiona (who was not yet two at the time) would be a bearded garden gnome. You went as a musclebound, hammer wielding Thor, and Scarlett changed costumes at least three times that day, ending up as a zombie cheerleader for Arizona State University. We went trick-or-treating on Grove Street, where the neighborhood blocks off the street and residents decorate their garages with spiderwebs and cauldrons and give out buckets worth of candy. Halloween with you and the girls is magical.

I can tell you without hesitation that one of my favorite moments this year was when you and your mom came to one of Scarlett’s basketball games at the JCC. The game had started, and all of the spectators were lined up against the far wall of the gymnasium, most in folding chairs or standing in small groups. You walked directly to where I was sitting, in the middle of all the action, and without a word you climbed into my lap, wrapped my arms around you and leaned back. I am not making this up: people were whipping out cameras. I think two women spontaneously melted into the floor, never to be seen again. Take note, my nephew, your charm is a powerful thing.


As a five-year-old, you traveled to Barcelona and Kauai, trying out new foods and late bedtimes. You face timed us from a porch in Hawaii that overlooked the ocean, and showed us the chickens running wildly in your backyard. Though you had barely been there for two days, you were as brown as toast and probably just as warm. In a way, I felt like I was right there with you. I do miss our travels together.

My ALS continues to progress, and you have become one of my trusted wheelchair drivers. With you in total control of the chair, we have cruised through the Mission and Noe Valley in search of restaurants, zoomed maniacally around playgrounds, and covered much hilly ground in our chosen city. Well, I guess it’s my chosen city. You are from San Francisco, a fact that still gives me a small electric shock when I think about it.


You are a phenomenal big brother, which surprises no one. Fiona has learned so much simply from watching you. You take good care of the things you love, like your colorful betta fish, Doughnut. You are learning to play the piano. You play soccer and T-ball, tennis and basketball. You love to ride your bike and be with your friends. Whenever I see you, you come right up to me and give me a kiss. Lately, you have taken to clapping my hands for me at appropriate times, and lifting my hand for a high five. You sat on my lap at Scarlett’s violin recital and used my arms to play your own imaginary violin.


Jack, you crack me up daily. You are an extraordinary person, and like the Beatles song says, it’s getting better all the time. I adore you, and I can’t wait to celebrate this big day with you.


*Photos by your parents and my friend Margaret, except for the one of you dressed as a girl. I took that one. Scarlett dressed you.

To My Nephew on His 3rd Birthday

Dear Jack,

Yesterday was your birthday party. We went to Nick’s Cove in Tomales Bay, which has become a tradition, because at this point, the adults are still in charge and we like oysters, pink sparkling wine, and bloody marys. Nick’s is a great place for the whole family, though. You ate macaroni and cheese with dungeness crab, opened a few presents (“PURPLE MAMOKO!”), and then went fishing for seaweed out on the pier with Scarlett. It was a beautiful, sunny day and even a swarm of aggressive yellow jackets couldn’t ruin the fun. Deciding it was either us or them, we tried to get them drunk on apple juice…it’s a long story. No one got stung.

Afterward, we came back to my house for dinner, more presents, and a very ornate Frozen performance by you and Scarlett, which involved Pops hiding behind a blanket and sprinkling Styrofoam “snow” over the two of you while you spun, gyrated, and sang. It was certainly the highlight of my day.

It’s been my habit to write letters on your birthday, both to commemorate another year and so that you know how important you are to me. As my ALS progresses, I find myself wondering how many more letters I’ll be able to write to you, what the chances are that this will be the last one. If it is (and even if it’s not), there are a few things that you should know.  Read More>