ADBIS 1996

This picture was taken at the ADBIS conference in Moscow in September 1996. I do not remember who took this picture and why, and when I got the print, getting the prints were not instantaneous at that time. It was the same strange time. I didn’t have a vise yet and was waiting for the second set of documents. I was mentally half gone but still didn’t tell anybody. I remember a couple of social activities, but the overall picture of that conference is pretty hazy in my memories.

It was the first time ADBIS became an international conference, not just some Russian professors and researchers hanging out with some Western colleagues. As I already said many times, one part of me was sure I would come back in two years, because despite whatever John Roseman was saying, I could not imagine myself living anywhere except Saint Petersburg.

The other part of me was similarly sure I am leaving for good. All the things I could not forgive my mom for were still raw and hurting, and this other part of me was hoping never to see her again. I didn’t see any way for Boris and me to achieve any stability in our relationships, and this other part of me was thinking that I will start my life fresh, meet some other man, and live happily ever after. I think that this was also an intention of Pam: she didn’t know about Boris; on paper, I was a single mother of three, and Val was divorced, and supposedly we didn’t have anybody else to lean on.
I always have the same thoughts when yet another anniversary of my coming to America is approaching. I think about how little I knew about what the future beholds.

Today, I was talking to Boris on Facetime, and at one moment, we stopped talking, and were just looking at each other. And I felt so strongly how lucky we are to have each other. And how much our lives changed because we have each other. Not only the family/personal life, but also the professional life, and overall what kind of humans we have become.

It’s crazy even to think about this: I would never decide to go to America if I wouldn’t be sure that we can’t resolve our issues. I am thinking: if my mom and grandpa won’t be both so difficult, and if my mom could secure my grandpa’s apartment after his death, Boris and I would have a place to live. And I would never-ever decide to go anywhere. And that apartment was so small and miserable that it would be a miserable life. But I wouldn’t know about it.
And even more horrifying, if we would never enter these relationships… We both would live our lives and think that everything is great, and we would be different people (I can see it clearly, what kind of people we would be!).

OK, seasonal thoughts:) and one more night, I am up way later than I planned! I am leaving myself here, on September 15, 1996, and I can’t even imagine how somebody could be as ignorant as I was!

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

How Old I Am :)

I wrote that post almost a month ago and didn’t publish. Today, there was another reason to question my age, and since I do not want to write about it, not yet, I decided to publish that post instead:)

I had a funny conversation with Boris the other day. He asked me whether I remember N. I said – no, I do not think I knew him. But he was with the Department of Informatics forever! – Well, there was no Department of Informatics at my time! – Whatever it was called then… – It was called a Department of Software Engineering, and I remember V, I remember S, and I remember K, but I do not remember N. – Nevermind, I just learned that he passed away. He had a heart attack. And he was only fifty-three…

And here, despite the tragic turn of the conversation, I started to laugh: fifty-three?! But I am fifty-seven! – Do you mean that he was not a faculty member when you were a student? – Precisely! And after I graduated, I had no interest in this department. Do you think I am forever twenty-five years old? It was a good laugh, despite the tragic topic.

Boris tells me about my “white lady” – a bike which we bought together last year. Back then, he was telling me that it did not have any economic justification, and I was saying that I want to have my own bike in Helsinki. So now, this white bike sits in his building bike storage right by his bike, and we both hope we will have a ride together someday. One of the things to look forward …

Neighbors

On one of the first quarantine days, I went out to take a walk right after I finished working. And when I was passing the mailboxes, I saw four of my five closest neighbors staying at a distance from each other and talking. I said: Hi, neighbors! So nice to see everybody at the same time – I do not remember whether it ever happened before!

Everybody these days behaves differently. Some people had isolated themselves way before the actual quarantine measures were announced. Some were and still are ignoring official guidelines when it comes to their relatives and neighbors; they think that the closest people “do not count.” I am trying not to judge anybody. It’s very difficult to tell at the moment which combination of measures, if any will work. Different doctors, different scientists, often disagree on the best course of action. I am trying my best to be a responsible citizen, and sometimes it is tough.

One of my neighbors is very strict in following social distancing. She was covering her face with a scarf way before it became a requirement, and she keeps the six feet distance all the time. When we talked on the porch, and I asked her whether she wants some of my soup (she loves it like anybody who ever tried it :)), she asked me to put a container on the steps. I did, and then stepped aside, and then she picked it. (She returned it to me in the same way, texted me her thanks, and left a container in the bag on the doorknob).

My other neighbor, my next-door one, still wants me to visit from time to time, and I do stop by, although I understand that when I am inside, the distance is less than six feet. She is heartbroken that her children and grandchildren do not visit. She was telling me that she suggested they come and sit on her deck, keeping the distance, but they said they want her to be safe. She is usually very calm and does not show her emotions, but she was visibly upset. We talked, and after a while, she said: I should not complain, we are better off than many people.

Yesterday, I was returning home from my midday bike ride. And another neighbor, the one who lives here only for a couple of years, waved me and asked how I am doing. We walked towards our houses, and out of nowhere, she asked: so when is next time your husband coming? I caught my breath: maybe, never! I don’t know at this point, perhaps not this year. She continued: it must be very hard… – It is what it is! Not until the planes will start to fly again. She went on: oh yes, that’s right, but I mean, in general … that he is away… is it because of his work? I replied: It’s a long story! And then I tried to increase the distance to the size required by the State of Illinois 🙂

***

It is tough for me to write about everything which is happening now. As Anna pointed correctly, the fact that Boris and I won’t see each other in person indefinitely is the worst. I didn’t even realize that that’s why all other things hurt me so badly that I am losing control over my life.


People often think that because we do not live together all the time, and only see each other every several weeks, it’s not something which should affect us so severely. However, all of the periods between our visits to each other are planned and pre-calculated. Most of the time, we know our schedule for several months ahead. And we try not to be away from each other for more than six weeks.

This time it was supposed to be longer – eight weeks. But there was not much we could do: I had my surgeries (and three and a half weeks before the first surgery to be contacts – free). And then we were going to go to New York for the conference, and there was supposed to be a week full of talks, presentations, training, meetings with different people. It was supposed to be our professional highlight of the year. Because of all that, I was OK to wait for two more weeks – we did it before.

Continue reading “***”

Happy and Healthy Unions

I started to write this post yesterday, but when I reached out to Grandfather Google for the exact link, the first thing I saw was Pete Buttigieg announcing that he is dropping out of the race. He was my choice, and with Illinois primaries being so close, I felt incredibly upset and could not bring myself to write this post. 

This morning, I decided it is still worth writing. 

I saw this article published in Tribune last week, and though it was related to Pete Buttigieg, I had similar observations for a long time. Because of Vlad, I had multiple chances to observe not only his relationships but also many other same-sex couples. And I could not agree more with what this article is stating. When people try to tell me something about gender roles in families, and what is “more natural” for a specific gender, I always ask: and what about same-sex couples? I’ve observed it so many times – the fluid roles when it all depends on how busy each of the partners is, who is more stressed or who is sick, who is better in doing particular things. 

Gay and lesbian couples, Coontz found, tend to approach conflicts with more humor and affection, spend less time criticizing and lecturing each other and offer each other more praise and encouragement, compared with their heterosexual counterparts.

“As a marriage historian,” Coontz told me, “it seems to me we’re totally entering uncharted territory. Never before in history have we tried to do marriage in a way that is totally free from dictation by our biology — whether we can or can’t have babies; whether we have to have babies — or by legal assignments that only husbands can do this and only wives can do that. It’s the first time we’ve really tried to build marriages that were not laid out for us by law and hundreds of years of customs.”

Mary Altaffer

I believe that what is emerging now is how our future unions will look like. Indeed, happy and healthy unions.