Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

15 - Essay from Newsletter 48

Making pancakes


This post is reprinted from my Dear Elena blog. The first 100 posts of the blog are gathered in a book that is available digitally or in paperback.


There are dates you just remember.

The first website I ever edited was It was run by O’Reilly and Collabnet for Sun and was to be the community home for the Java Programming Language.

I wrote a column five days a week and also pointed to the articles we commissioned and published, articles published elsewhere, Java and tech related news gathered by our news editor, and items from our various active communities. For a few years it was a great site that run by a great team that I was proud to be a part of.

We launched on the first day of JavaOne in 2003. It’s a date that I remember. It was June 10.

Mostly I remember because that’s also my mom’s birthday. But it was a big day for me as well. An entirely new venture. In many ways my life was different after that date – I was no longer an academic. I was now in this world of programming and technology.

I launched my first personal blog, this blog, fifteen years ago today.

I still don’t know what motivated me to do it. I remember going up to my office and creating the wordpress blog and creating my first post.

“How do you remember it was fifteen years ago today?” you ask.

Because it was the day after fifteen years ago yesterday.


Yesterday Maggie texted me, “Making pancakes today?”

This is one of the many reasons that Maggie is my favorite person on earth.

“Yeah,” I texted back, “Thinking of you – obviously”

That’s how we communicate.

It may seem innocuous and sterile to you, so I’ll translate.

Maggie was texting to see if I was commemorating the death of her sister the same way I do every year.

I was thanking her and letting her know how much I love her.


After Elena died, Kim would go to mass each year on the anniversary.

I would meet Kim afterwards for breakfast at Big Al’s. The same place we got engaged. And we would have breakfast together.

Many years Kim’s mom and sometimes both parents would join her at church. Sometimes they’d come to breakfast with us.

Whatever we ordered, we’d always have a pancake.

Elena loved pancakes.

Whenever they served “Brunch for Lunch” at the school cafeteria she’d ask if she could buy lunch that day instead of bringing it from home.

She loved pancakes for dinner at home or as a treat if we’d go out.

That’s why Maggie asked if I was going to have pancakes.


Kim and I went out for pancakes after Kim went to mass both on the anniversary of Elena’s death and a week later on her birthday.

In between we usually threw a pancake breakfast for friends and relatives with multi-colored pancakes, breakfast meats, fruit salad, and other items. It wasn’t Elena’s birthday party – it was more taking this time to celebrate her life as a family.

After Kim and I finished breakfast, I would drop Kim back at our house and go to the cemetery.

It took Kim nearly ten years to come with me.

I would stand by Elena’s stone, still not believing she’s gone.

It was fifteen years yesterday and I still don’t believe it.


Maggie asking if I was having pancakes was also asking, now that mom’s gone, will you still be having pancakes?


I don’t go to Big Al’s anymore.

I tried that once.

And then I drove to the cemetery to visit Elena’s grave. Next to Kim’s grave.

Fifteen years ago today I started this blog.

I may make pancakes again today.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 48. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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