My friend, Jill’s, father died recently.
Turns out his first name was William. Maybe I knew that once? But he was really just Jill’s dad to me. And he was a character. He worked at Cal Tech, and for a while he was in the Guinness Book of Records as the inventor (builder?) of the world’s smallest working machine. (They eventually did away with this category.) When a group, including Jill and I, were arrested for civil disobedience (in protest of the use of antipersonnel weapons in areas with civilian populations during the Vietnam War) he took (I believe) a still photo of the TV coverage (back when cameras were not digital) as a memento for us. I wonder if Jill still has it — she keeps that kind of thing. Jill’s mom was a rummage queen. A lot of my clothing during college came from her. I bought shoes and socks for sports (basketball and running) and (as near as I can remember) not much else. My clothes were never color coordinated (and seldom fit very well). But I still appreciate the fact that from more than an hours distance, she sent me clothes I could wear (via Jill) on a pretty regular basis. (A lot of my clothes, growing up, were hand me downs of one kind or another. I grew up with no expectation of choosing my own clothing or having new clothes. Not, mind you, because we couldn’t have afforded them. I think my parents just felt it would have been wasteful. That, anyway, is how I remember things.)
Jill’s parents used to tie her up in bed as a child. It probably would be considered child abuse, pure and simple, today. But I had trouble blaming them. Jill was hyperactive, and slept maybe 3 or 4 hours a night. At a certain point, they decided they just had to sleep. I’m not sure how Jill feels about this. Memory says she really hated this, but kind of understood it. Anyway, I liked her folks. Her mom, who was English, taught her how to make tea (with “milk”). Jill taught me. That’s how I drink tea (mainly, anyway) to this day.
I met Jill, I believe, early in my Freshman year at Irvine. Our friend Tim, whom neither of us had met, put out a flier inviting anyone interested in forming a non violent community at Irvine to a meeting. We both attended. Eventually a kind of community, my base community at Irvine, formed. We arranged a class for credit on pacifism, Learned about Non-violent Revolutionary Groups (NRG’s) from some Quakers (they’d prefer Friends) and eventually rented a house (with a population varying from perhaps 6 to 12 over time — if memory serves) as well a organizing some actions of civil disobedience against the Vietnam War. (The action in Seal Beach, which Jill’s dad photographed, was actually sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee — though a number of us participated.) We came to call ourselves The Tribe. It was a group with porous boundaries. Most of us were from Irvine. There was a core. But people drifted in and out. We had one reunion, at a campground in Washington State, perhaps a decade ago. It was interesting to see who came, and it was fun to catch up with folks.
My friend Mark, a draft resister, was arrested by the FBI at the house we shared. That was a strange morning.
It seems that the FBI had been surveilling us for a while.
I woke up (memory says it was like 5 AM, but in all honesty, it could have been a good deal later) when some strange man, standing in the door to my room, asked if I were Mark. I wake up slow. I shook my head and mumbled, “I don’t think so.”
And I turned back over and tried to go back to sleep.
Tim knew what was happening immediately. He got right up. I don’t remember if Jill was sleeping in that room at that time or not. In any case, I eventually processed that something weird was going on and got up — the last one up. By that time, Mark was in handcuffs. It seemed to take another 10 or 15 minutes before they drove off with him.
The irony is that they could have come and picked up Mark at any time. He sent them word, years earlier, that he was resisting the draft. And we were a non-violent community. So they really didn’t need recon and an early morning raid.
The worry was that Mark was claustrophobic. We thought he might lose his mind locked up in a small cell. I think arrangements for bail were made fairly quickly (he had never been hiding). And Mark seemed to be doing well with his life when we all got together at the camp ground.
Anyway, Jill and I shared housing two other (school) years with Marty and Kris — down the street from John Wayne (in a house owned by someone who owned multiple car dealerships) and next door to one of the Righteous Brothers (we met his kid, who was maybe 12, once). She’s the one who wanted to be an Episcopal Priest (but women couldn’t be ordained back then). Now she’s a very active part of a Friends Meeting in upstate New York. Our loss.
Anyway, in my mind, Jill remains one of my good friends. It sounds like they will have a memorial for her dad around November 1, and i hope I can make it. I’d like to be there for her (and her sister). And I’d like to be there for her dad.