Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ambassador Chris Stevens

Growing up in Oakland, the phone rang a lot. First it was "is Loretta there?" and then a few years later, "can I talk to Vicky?" and soon after, the same with Rita. Boys -- mostly nervous, and impolite -- were calling all the time. It was annoying, but it was the price to pay for having beautiful sisters.

My father went to Cal, and it was assumed all of us would go there, too. I followed Loretta there, and Victoria matriculated to Cal a few years later. Like Loretta, she was a member of the Delta Gamma sorority. It was well known on campus that DG girls were brainy babes, hard to get and always in demand, and Loretta and Vicky were no exception. (Rita also went to Cal, but sorority life was not her thing.)

For a winter formal in 1981, Chris Stevens asked Vicky out. In a photo of the two of them taken at this event, they both look very happy, clearly enjoying each other's company, with the whole world still in front of them. Stevens may have just told her a joke, because Vic is in the middle of a deep guffaw, with her mouth wide open in great delight. No one in our family laughs as hard and as loudly as Vicky.

Another thing that strikes me about this photo (which I unfortunately was unable to upload), is that both Stevens and my sister maintained their youthful looks right in to their fifties. Some people change as they age; these two did not.

Vicky lost touch with Stevens after college, but when he died last month, it still hit her hard. She told all of us what a nice guy he was, how he treated her so well during the few times they went out.

For me, there was one degree of separation -- Stevens's mother, Mary, is a cellist, and was still a member of the Marin Symphony Orchestra when I was a guest conductor there several years ago. After divorcing in 1975, Mary Stevens remarried the San Francisco Chronicle's music critic, Robert Commanday, whose well-written features on classical music (and on the San Francisco Symphony, in particular) I read religiously.

It must have been extremely difficult for my sister to watch Obama and Romney in their second debate, arguing like two school boys over whether the Benghazi attack was an act of terror. Obama briefly tried to take the high road on this issue, but it was mostly politics as usual.

For Victoria, who now lives in Australia with her family, Chris Stevens was not just a ambassador and diplomat, a sudden media figure made more famous in death than in life. He was a gentleman who but for a short time, as a boy crossing into adulthood, was in her life.

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