I hiked to the top of Buena Vista park and sobbed, my chest tightening with regret for having ever left this place I think of as home. I lingered on the sidewalk across the street from my old Ashbury flat and wept some more. My eyes brimmed with tears as I sat across from Robert and held his hand for the first time in twenty years. Sitting in a car mere yards from a windy Pacific, Heather and I ate potato chips and drank white wine from red plastic cups, and laughed until we cried. Pam held me, both of us moist-eyed, as I lamented my departure seventeen years ago.

Along the way I stayed true to form befriending strangers—Lawrence, Ken, the woman at the ferry building whose name I can't remember, Enyeti (do I have it right?), Sean—all who made my San Francisco visit richer with their warmth. They were generous, kind, curious, interesting, fun-loving souls.

On a cloudy morning I paddled into the Bay. On another, I ferried across to Sausalito. I sipped espresso and wine in Cole Valley. I noshed a shrimp quesadilla at seventeenth and Valencia. I devoured Burmese noodles and curried shrimp in the Mission. I ate homemade pesto gnocchi and eggplant Parmesan in a North Beach icon. I climbed the hills of the city, and nibbled dim sum near the Embarcadero. I strolled a blustering Baker Beach eyeing a shivering quinceañera and a nude wader talking on his cell phone. I partied with my favorite lovelies who have known me since I came of age in my early thirties. I breathed deep gobs of cool air and listened for fog horns amid the intoxicating fragrance of sweet alyssum and star jasmine. I ambled through Golden Gate park's Japanese and botanical gardens. I did all these things with some of my favorite people ever; you know who you are.

Back in Maine, Calvin seized. He suffered a three-hour episode of what I can only describe as night terrors. Michael held him and kept things together. Nellie the dog snarfed up scraps of lobster and hot dogs, remnants of a college frolic at the fields. Later, she shat all over the house. Calvin then crawled through the loose, stinking feces, cluelessly slathering himself in doggie diarrhea before the nurse could intervene.

My red-eye flight home sat on the tarmac for over two hours. I missed my Newark connection and was rebooked on one getting in close to midnight a day later. Instead, I flew to Boston then rode the bus north to Maine. At home with my stubborn, sun-staring son, I went from zero to sixty suffering from exhaustion, impatience and frustration. My San Francisco chill-out was erased within minutes.

I'm slowly settling back into the reality of my existence—endless pacing behind my son, wiping up drool, changing diapers, dicing food, listening to Calvin's incessant humming, shielding my eyes and mouth from his rigid and errant fingers, waking and watching him seize—trying not to despair too much. Re-entering the atmosphere burns. Thankfully my husband, who I met in San Francisco over twenty years ago, took care to make my landing softer.

I hope before too long I'll again get back to the place that shaped me in so many ways and one I'll always think of as home. San Francisco—its crisp air, mild climate, scenic vistas, gigantic gnarled and ancient-looking trees, flowering, aromatic shrubs, glass and steel skyline hugging pastel homes, gleaming seas, outrageous food, fine folks from all over the world, buzzing neighborhoods, blue skies and fog, lush parks, clean beaches and chill vibe—is the perfect antidote to an oft stressful and limited life defined by my sweet, disabled, messed-up child.

The last time I was in San Francisco before this recent trip, December 2005, photo by Michael Kolster


  1. Christy, I'm Robert Beamer's brother, Randy. My son has had seizures since he was a young teen. Violent, long lasting ones that tore us apart for many years. Epilepsy meds did virtually nothing, but during one of our trips to Swedish, the Dr. said he thought my son had " conversion disorder". Your body responds to any stress, and it does out in various forms...seizures being one possibility. We started him on anti depressants. They did totally "fix" the issue,..but his condition improved a lot. I hope this is useful to you. All my best....

  2. I'm glad that you had the respite and totally understand how difficult it was to go "home." You must make it a point to do it more often -- not wait so very long. Trust me when I tell you this. Make it happen more often and you will be fine.