Sunday, March 26, 2017

Remembrances of Alex Tizon

I have had the good fortune of having two great sons-in-law and now I have lost one. .

I first met  Alex some 22 years ago when he drove Melissa home to Kansas City from Seattle.  She had just finished an internship with the Seattle Times and was home to finish a summer project for her graduate journalism degree.  Filipino parents that we were, Melissa anticipated the interrogatories that Alex might be subjected to.  She immediately cornered me with stern admonition. "Don't mess this up for me, mom.  He is really very important to me."  Alex has been a very important part of our lives since.

I came to know his storytelling which always spoke of the human condition and some of which changed my way of thinking. His news articles were not news reporting.  They were stories of people and the circumstances that got them where they were.  Some of his stories prompted me to change my own behavior.  His piece on The Killing of the Bears got me to seriously look at my relationship with the environment. It got me to take recycling seriously. He taught me about Filipinos in America, how we have been here for close to 400 years. Filipino sailors working in ships sailing from the Philippines to Spain would jump ship in Louisiana. Known as Manila men, they had a thriving dried shrimp business. I learned things like that from him.  Alex always cautioned against looking only at a single narrative. "There are always many narratives." he  said. Somehow I think that on some obscure level, we may have been kindred spirits, journalist and psychiatrist, both in the business of trying to understand how people find themselves where they are.

Once while dining on a counter at 13 Coins in Seattle, I told him I had always wanted to learn how to write but did not know how to string one good sentence after another.  (I escaped medical school without having written one paper.) "Don't worry about it, mom." He said. "Just find your own voice and write about what you know and what you love. And just write." I read his articles and studied his sentences for self training. I still cannot write good enough sentences.

Alex always made it a point to spend alone time with me whenever we got together,too infrequent as they were. Sometimes we had prolonged conversations over his favorite whiskey and my Riesling or over lunch in the neighborhood Thai restaurant. Sometimes it would be short like just driving me to the grocery store. He told about how he could be brooding at times. He talked about his marriage, his children, his career.  We talked about what great massage we got, where.

It was fun to see Alex with his daughters, from building forts with chairs and blankets or slides from upturned tables to listening to them exchange ideas as they girls got older. They hugged and laughed and watched silly TV shows or serious newscast. He comforted Dylan when she just wept and almost had a panic attack when the Trump win was announced.  He and Maya would kid each other and hug and tell each other silly jokes. They loved dogs and would take turns mauling their dog with kisses.

We became a part of Alex' family as he quickly became one of ours.  His siblings looked to him for counsel and we looked to him for opinions of what was going on in the world. We took vicarious pleasure in his writing trips from how dangerously freezing it was in the Arctic to his road trip across America after 911.

Alex loved my daughter very much and he thought he was the luckiest man ever because of her.  Every now and again, over the years, he would thank me for the beautiful person that Melissa had become, as if it was my doing.

Melissa loves Alex very much.  When she called and said, "Mom, Alex died." I at once felt the loss. More than my own loss, at that moment I felt my daughter's overwhelming pain. I felt my granddaughters' pain. I felt his family's pain. The mother part of me wept for them.

Alex was a magnificent writer greatly respected by his peers.  More importantly he was a good man and we are all the better for him.  Thank you for having been in our lives, son.

Alex Tizon, former Seattle Times reporter who won Pulitzer prize dies at 57


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