A Family Album

Facing Down Another Birthday With Jack And Diane

Traveling out of state on the weekend before my birthday I find myself reminiscing, taking stock of the present, and looking into the future.

Carl J. Petersen
5 min readSep 15, 2021

Holdin’ on to sixteen as long as you can

Change is coming ‘round real soon

Make us women and men

- John Mellencamp

I am starting off the week of my birthday soaking in a hot tub under a crisp sky in the mountains of Washington State. As the jets turn off I am struck by the complete silence that envelops me. Then I begin to hear nature’s soundtrack; the breeze blowing through the trees, the song of birds, other noises that I cannot even identify. The only man-made sound I hear is that of an airplane flying high above me and I wonder about the last time I heard an airplane flying that high in Los Angeles. Last night we actually saw a field of stars.

My kids

Later tonight all five of my kids will be together for the first time in years. Four of them have flown up here to be with their oldest sister as she gets married in her adopted home in the Northwest. As we have driven around the area, I cannot imagine a more beautiful place for her to start a new chapter in her life. I am looking forward to welcoming her fiance into the family.

The combination of this milestone, my upcoming birthday, and being far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city has left me in a reflective mood. Seeing my daughter after a couple of years is a great reminder that the distance between, both physical and the ones we have imposed on each other, cannot break the bonds that were forged during her childhood. My pride is also stoked by seeing the strong and independent young woman that she has become.

My dad and oldest daughter on a trip to Disney World

There is also a part of me who grieves those who will not be sharing the experience. As I look in the mirror, I am reminded that the red that used to tinge my beard went gray…



Carl J. Petersen

Parent, special education advocate and former LAUSD School Board candidate. Still fighting for the children. www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com