Song of Life and Death

Sing me a Song of Life and Death

Make it a ballad—not a dirge

Don’t let Jagger or Tyler

Write the lyrics

Or compose—or sing it!

No!  I want a collaboration—

Hank Williams, the Eagles, and Dylan

Should be perfect for MY song.

For Life and Death are not two

It takes outrageous courage

To face these identical twins.

Sing my Song with words I can hear—

Verse one on Hank’s acoustic

Lonesome train whistle for backup

Second verse, full electrics

Eagles’ “Hotel California” flavor

Dylan gets verse three—for clarity.



Leslea Robb (2)

You were only three                        

or four at most

At bedtime tucking

you in I’d lie down

Every night the same

“Dad, tell me again

about how they nailed

Jesus on the cross.”


You never asked why

Just wanted to

hear me tell the story.

How your young mind

took it in was beyond

my understanding then

And continues to

mystify me today.


Fast forward to twenty

The demons kept coming

And I couldn’t stop them

(God knows I tried).

Life’s lessons came hard

for both of us

Yet never did you

ask: “Why me?”


Now at fifty-one

I try to tell your story

It makes no more sense

Now than then.

But it is yours

You lived it demons and all

And finally, finally,

You can rest.

Celebration of Completion of Life of Robbin Roy Hamilton

The week began with the shock of learning of our son Robb’s death on Sunday morning, having to call our daughter Leslea who was in California on a driving vacation trip with her husband Jim, making arrangements with a cremation service to pick up his body from the Riverside County Coroner, notifying friends and family members, and trying to plan a simple but appropriate sendoff for Robb.  We held a “Starbucks coffee and doughnuts” memorial on Wednesday with a dozen of Robb’s housemates at M2J House, the group boarding home where he lived for the past three years.  It was touching to hear how many lives Robb touched and how many of his friends spoke of how much they would miss him.  Robb was one of Starbucks’ best customers due to the weekly gift cards we had been delivering to him for several years.  When we went to pick up the urns of coffee, the store manager and assistant manager came over to tell us how sorry they were for our loss and that they would miss Robb sitting at his regular table.  Friday night we invited a few of our “gang” over for a Happy Hour and pizza celebration and a sharing of stories about Robb.  I made an 8 minute video slide show which I am attempting send a link to in this E-mail.  I am also posting and linking to it on my Facebook and Google Plus accounts.  I hope John Lennon and Simon and Garfunkel will forgive me for including them as background (not to mention Facebook and Google).  Robb is being cremated and Linda and I will be taking a bit of him up to Oak Glen, at Los Rios nature trail where we plan to have our remains scattered.  Then he will go back to Minneapolis, where he spent his pre-teen years, to be at with his mother and Uncle Jack, who struggled with schizophrenia as did Robb until his death.  Some have asked about a memorial for Robb and we have suggested that any donations should be sent to the National Association for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), an advocacy organization for mentally ill people and their families.  Linda and I thank all of you who have sent E-mails and Facebook responses and wish you all a safe journey through life.  We are glad that we could share these years with Robb and now release him to the mystery that contains all life and death.  Grace, Peace and Love, Milan and Linda

(If you can’t access the link below by clicking on it, try copy and paste into your browser)

Celebration of Son Robb’s Life

Linda and I and Leslea and Jim want to thank you so much for all the kind and thoughtful responses and wishes in response to our son Robb’s February 15 death.  We celebrated Robb’s life the week following with a morning coffee and doughnuts appreciation with Robb’s housemates and friends in Riverside, then a Friday afternoon gathering with our Redlands “gang” to tell stories about Robb and watch a short video of his life journey.  Last Sunday Linda and I scattered some of his remains at Oak Glen, which was the last “outing” we took Robb on and he made the comment “I really like it here.  I should get out in nature more.”  The rest of his remains have been sent to his sister Leslea in Minneapolis where she and her husband and Nephew Tony Wilson will take them to be interred near where his mother and Uncle Jack are buried.  Thanks to everyone who sent cards and E-mails and to those of you who sent a donation in Robb’s memory to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).  Most sincere appreciation.  Milan and LindaRobb Oak Glen

End of Our Son Robb’s Journey on February 15

Our son Rob did not wake up yesterday morning.  When he did not show up for breakfast, which he seldom missed, his house manager found him in his room.  He had died sometime in the early morning hours, February 16.  Rob was a courageous fighter with the demons of schizophrenia for 35 years.  He is 51 years old.  Monday he spent all day with his dad (me) getting a new social security card and a California ID, and at the end of the day said “Dad, thanks for spending the whole day with me to get those things done.  I really enjoyed it.”  On Wednesday when Linda and I took him to get his every other week injection and dropped him off he remarked again how much he enjoyed it.  He spent the last few days surrounded by his M2J friends and housemates (15 of them), all with some degree of mental illness.  It has not always been easy for the rest of his family to deal with his particular version of mental illness, but especially in the last few years it has been a delight and privilege to spend time with him and be his parents.  His sister Leslea and husband Jim are in Redlands this week, just happened to be on a vacation trip.  So we will have a small family and friends celebration of Rob’s life before they return.  Rob will be cremated and the family will be disposing of his ashes after a little consultation.  Rob, it has been an honor to be your Dad and we are going to miss you greatly.  Rest now in the peace that passes understanding.

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Hamiltons 2014 Happenings

The Year 2014 CollageThe year was one for us of ups and downs with a sense of a quiet steady underflow, kicked off with our tradition of three foreign films per day with friends the Butchers at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The first quarter of 2014 was taken up largely with assisting Milan’s Mom to prepare for her final life transition.  Visits by daughter and son-in-law Leslea and Jim Sullivan and cousin Jan O’Grady and phone calls from other relatives and friends filled her last few months with happy memories, and the April memorial service at her church, followed by burying her with her colorful beads showered over her casket, made for a most appropriate celebration of Opal’s life.

Leslie Temanson’s two-month “furlough” from Thailand is always a trip.  This year our gang got to help celebrate his niece Rebecca’s marriage to Moshe. No sooner had he returned to the elephant camp where he now lives, we learned that he began building a house nearby, and has bought an elephant, name of Loong T.

We capped off the first half of the year with our annual celebration of our anniversary (38th) and Linda’s (?) birthday at Hotel California in Palm Springs.

The summer found us hosting granddaughters Sami and Kayla from Iowa.  Highlights for us were Sami’s American Girl tea party and creating a “fairy garden” with furniture built by Grandpa Milan, and several author book-signings with blogger Kayla, who we found was known to many of the authors because of her reviews of their books.  A special day trip to Los Angeles allowed us to visit the Museum of the Holocaust for the first time.

Celebrations included Frank Knutson’s 80th, Thanksgiving in the mountains with our gang and a surprise birthday for Frank’s son Kyle, our usual Christmas Eve at our house playing charades and “Balderdash,” and New Year’s Eve at Tomi Olson’s, watching the Times Square ball drop at 9 p.m. and in bed by 10.

Other activities during the year included trips to Portland to enjoy our fun granddaughters Katy and Grace (and their parents), Linda’s Tai Chi teaching, regular Tuesday night meditation group, Milan’s weekly memoir writing class and blog postings, Linda’s volunteer facilitation with Corazon, a terrific organization working with poor families in Tijuana (Milan even helped out with their Christmas party attended by 450 people).  Milan was especially gratified that he helped elect a Democrat to Congress from our district (first in history he thinks).  He also was elected to the board of directors of our Braemar Cooperative Apartments, which Linda was appointed to chair the newly formed landscaping committee.  And we were especially happy to welcome friend Maxine Nacsin, who finally moved into her Braemar apartment.

Finally, we share some favorites:Movies-“Pride,” an inspiring 1984 story of gays and lesbians of London supporting a community of striking coal miners; “The Imitation Game,” and “Ida.”TV mini-series: “Grand Hotel,” “The Roosevelts.”TV shows:  “Madame Secretary,” Bluebloods,” “Major Crimes.”Books:  Linda is reading prequels to “Dune” and Milan is catching up by reading “Dune.”

My Uncle Wayne Died . . .

. . .this year, 2014, in the Spring, just a couple of months after we had buried my mother.  He was only 80 years old.  We found out when we received an E-mail from his wife, Betty after she got one of my blog postings and realized we didn’t know.  Linda and I had stopped to have lunch with the two of them in Ankeny, Iowa when we were on our summer trip to the midwest last year.  According to Betty’s message it all came suddenly.  He went to the hospital and did not return home.  In just two weeks he was gone.  Betty communicated her grief and also her struggle with Wayne’s last request that there be no memorial or special funeral commemoration for him.  “We are trying to honor his request,” she added at the end of her message.

Well, I am sorry, Uncle Wayne, but I made no such promise.  I remember many of our times when we were both growing up.  Don’t forget–I was only three years behind you.  You may not remember the times your mother made you take me along with you and your friends on my summer stays at your house in Charles City, Iowa.  The many nights we put up the old metal bed frame in the back yard and slept under the stars.  The night-time trips to the outhouse with a flashlight.  Sneaking your Dad’s old black 1938 (?) Willys out of the garage, pushing it down the alley so your Mom wouldn’t hear us cranking the engine to take it around the neighborhood for a spin.

Then when I was in junior high and living in Charles City with Grandpa and Grandma Williams, you let me tag along with you and your buddies, just like I was one of you.  Sitting beneath the old railroad trestle that was just a couple of blocks from your house, feeling the shaking and the steam from the old engine spraying over us as the freight train rolled across it.  The summer when you let me be part of the “pit crew” for a couple of stock car races at the track just outside of town.  And the thrill of the one race our driver actually won!  It was a dirt track and we came home covered with it.  As you got closer to graduation and discovered girls, you even shared with me some of the ups and downs of that learning experience.

When I moved back to Minneapolis for my high school years, you graduated and came to stay with us for the summer.  I remember you were so grateful when my Dad took you to Juster Bros. to buy a suit.  And he even got you a summer job at J.Olson machine shop where he worked.  I think it was soon after that summer you enlisted in the Air Force, married Betty, and started a family.  I know my mother kept in touch with your family through the years, but I was off on my own life and only kept up through her.

I remember that you came for my Dad’s funeral and burial in 1976.  You were working for the phone company at the time, I believe, your career after the Air Force years.  I remember a few years ago when Linda and I and Mom were on another midwest trip, you and Betty invited us to stop for lunch and you shared your sorrow about having lost your connection to your grandchild.  And then losing son Michael, so young, added to the burden you and Betty carried.

I was grateful to reconnect during Mom’s last days.  The messages you sent expressing your appreciation for how she was so kind to your mother and how she brightened your lives with her Christmas goodies and craft items was especially heartwarming.  The last phone call you had with her just days before she died meant a lot to her and us.  It was special that son Scott was there to be in on the call.

I could go on but I know it would make you uncomfortable.  But I wanted you and your family to know that you are remembered.  You were at various stages of life my hero, my mentor, my tor-mentor, and my friend.  And you were and are and will always be MY UNCLE WAYNE!

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