Barbie: role model for girls, fun to play with, brought joy to many.
I’m not talking about the Mattel toy, or the Hollywood blockbuster. I’m talking about Barb O’Brien. A couple of years ago, I didn’t even know who she was. But thanks to the esprit de corps that pickleball engenders among “the regulars” at any particular set of courts, I got to know Barb (a.k.a. “Barbie”). And to know Barb was to love her. How could you not admire someone who was battling cancer but still kicking butt on the courts… and doing it all with a positivity that was absolutely infectious.
Age and ailments slowed her down, but they never kept her away from the courts for too long until recently. To say Barb “lost” her battle to cancer would be wrong – she left the courts (and this world) with her head held high and a smile on her face.
I knew Barb was a tennis star in her youth, but it wasn’t until I read her obit that I realized what a trailblazer she was:
Barb was a fierce competitor, earning a spot on the Withrow High School Boys Varsity Tennis team in 1972, prior to Title IX and dedicated womens teams. Barb went on to attend the University of Cincinnati where she played tennis, achieving a ranking of #2 in the state of Ohio.
Barb was a greeter, a welcomer, an ambassador, and a connector. She was a grinder, a laugher, and a lover of the game. She made an indelible impact on me and many others. She not only helped create other lovers of the game, but other ambassadors, connectors, and welcomers. They are all Barb’s legacy, and they are all longing for the old days.
Mitch Dunn in his Medium post linked above
Barb’s friend Sue posted the news of Barb’s passing on the group chat for the Clear Creek pickleball crew. Dozens of people posted notes like these:
Barb’s daughter Marci joined the chat via Barb’s account:
Barbie Summer is over. But Barb’s influence will go on for years.
Sorry about the paywall thing… FWIW, cheapskates like me avoid it by using a free day pass from the public library. The Cincinnati Library one is here.
Here are a few choice excerpts:
Coal: it’s only for bad kids’ Christmas stockings.
Bob Dylan was right – the answer is blowin’ in the wind!
Without a doubt, we’re still in a crisis. The planet is in peril. But the winds of change are blowing, and we might be seeing the dawn of a new day (and capturing those solar rays in the process). Go Team Earth!
This is the story of a Prince, a Pope and a young woman.
Sinéad O’Connor was 23 when her second album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got rocketed up the charts, mostly based on the strength of her cover of Prince’s song “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
She didn’t just cover Prince’s song… she made it her own.
Sinéad was just 25 when she appeared on Saturday Night Live and performed Bob Marley’s “War.” She didn’t just cover Marley’s tune, she made it her own… by changing the lyrics to reference child abuse. Oh, and as we all know, she did so while tearing up a photo of the Pope.
For doing so, she was “cancelled” before cancel culture was even a thing.
In a post-Spotlight world, when we know much more about the child abuse being committed by members of the clergy, and about the coverups by the higher-ups, I hope people can better understand the motives of Ms. O’Connor. She wasn’t just protesting clergy abuse either, but child abuse in general. It was something she had firsthand experience with.
The photo itself had hung on the bedroom wall of O’Connor’s mother, who O’Connor later said had physically and sexually abused her as a child.
“We were girls in there, not women, just children really. And the girls in there cried every day. It was a prison. We didn’t see our families, we were locked in, cut off from life, deprived of a normal childhood. We were told we were there because we were bad people. Some of the girls had been raped at home and not believed.”
Nine years after she tore up his photo, Pope John Paul II sent an email apology to the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and other clergy in Australia and the surrounding region, acknowledging the scandal for the first time in his papacy.
In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said in an 18-page letter that he was “truly sorry” for the abuse suffered by victims at the hands of Catholic priests in Ireland, O’Connor’s home country.
Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, we can see Sinéad’s protest as a clarion call… and we can see Sinéad as more prophet than pariah.
In a tribute to O’Connor following her death, Irish comedian and actress Aisling Bea wrote on Instagram that “everything she stood up for and against then, including racism in the music industry, has been proved to have been needed and right…She was the original truth sayer who wouldn’t go easy into the night.”
I took our youngest child, our baby boy, to freshman orientation at Indiana University over the past few days.
On Saturday evening, he stayed in the hotel room with me. Sunday, we had some “classes” together on campus during the morning, then the students and parents split for different sessions, reuniting at dinner. We walked around campus for a bit after that, then he went to the student-only evening festivities, and stayed in a dorm room that evening. Yesterday we attended different sessions before meeting up around noon to head home.
The campus is gorgeous. The business school is top-notch. But the most important part of the trip was Sunday evening, when we parted ways. He wound up meeting and hanging out with a kid from Philly and a kid from Chicago. They stayed up until the wee hours of the morning. Just like the college kids do.
College is about expanding your horizons. His high school was diverse, but there were no kids from Philly or Chicago there. Soon he’ll be around 9,000 fellow freshmen from all over – East Coast, West Coast, Midwest… big cities and small towns. Over the next four years, out of that batch of 9,000, he’ll meet a handful of kids that will wind up becoming his best friends for life.
In less than a month, our baby boy will be moving into a dorm room again. Only this time it won’t be for a single evening. It’ll be for days and weeks on end.
So this entire trip was a test. A test for me. To help me practice letting go.
A couple of weeks ago, our youngest child graduated from Walnut Hills High School.
For him, it’s just another mile marker on his life’s journey. But for Mrs. Dubbatrubba and me, it’s the end of an era. No more high school schedules. No more early morning wake-ups. No more emails from teachers, parking passes, homecomings and proms. He’s starting a new chapter, and we’re closing the book.
Andrew will be off to Bloomington, Indiana, in just a few short months. These past few weeks have been good practice – ever since his graduation, he’s been “gone”… working, meeting up with his friends, going out with his girlfriend, and attending a seemingly endless conga line of grad parties. He’s quite the social butterfly – and he and his friends are starting to realize that their carefree days together are limited.
Meanwhile, we’re realizing that our true parenting days are coming to an end as well. When Andrew heads to Hoosier-ville, we won’t be empty nesters just yet, but that day is on the not-too-distant horizon.
We’ll still be “consultants” but we won’t be “essential employees” like we were when our kids were younger. The shift has been tougher than I imagined.
We’ve experienced the graduation of one Rocket (Gabriel) and three Eagles (Peter, Leah and Andrew) . We want all of them to soar, but we still love them to the moon and back.
Our son Peter graduated from Ohio University a couple of weeks ago. It was a gorgeous, sunny Spring day. Fitting, because his future is bright, and he’s still growing into the person he’ll become.
Peter got cheated out of some of the college experience (thanks COVID!). But in his own quiet, unassuming way, he put in the work. Triple major. Summa cum laude.
The academic prowess is great, but five years hence, it won’t matter as much. Your friends and co-workers won’t care what your major was – they’ll care about how you treat them. Peter’s summa cum laude in that department too. Kind. Caring. Gracious. Generous. Supportive. That’s what we’re most proud of.
It’s called “commencement” because it’s the start of the next chapter. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for him.