Tomorrow, August 19, would have been Jake’s 30th birthday. Seems hard to believe. But so many things have happened in the past 6 years that are hard to believe. Nothing is unbelievable anymore.
It is a futile and frustrating exercise but I can’t help wonder the big what if … What if he had been able to conquer his demons and survived the struggle? Where and what would he be at age 30? Would he be married with children by now? Would I be a grandpa. Would he have stayed in Palm Springs or moved elsewhere, far or near? Running his own restaurant? Would he have returned to photography and have a career as a photographer? Would he have discovered a different passion? Would he be happy? The questions are endless. I turn them over and over and the answer is always the same.
I can only look at the many photos of him at every age we have around the house, shake my head and whisper, “Jake, what happened?” “Where did you go?”
And where are we? I fill my days with activity, a shield against grief. I have learned how to manage it. I have developed a callus against the stone in my shoe. Nearly 6 years in and it still seems as if this is happening to someone else, and maybe that’s how I have learned to bear it. No longer denial, no longer the blind fury, not the incandescent agony of loss, just a weary resignation that this is how it is and nothing will change it. He ain’t never coming back.
I am playing a little more music. I revived an old guitar that my Mom had. My introduction to music came from that guitar in her hands and now it invites me to play. So I do. My dearest old friend was down from Seattle a few weeks ago, and in years past we would have played music every night. Sadly not this time, but perhaps on his next visit. The hands are rusty and stiff, the chords unfamiliar, the fingers burn with the hard wires of the steel strings, but I play. So in that measure, I have made a little more progress.
We get messages from him occasionally. Reminders that he is still around. Perhaps they are just constructs of my mind that lets me believe but sometimes they seem so clear that it is difficult to deny something is at work here that we cannot fathom. For example, I am doing some customer service work for a company answering questions online. I get rated on my helpfulness by the users with a Green Smiley Face, a Yellow Meh Face and a Red Frowny Face. One came by last night from ‘Jake’. It was an easy answer, and shortly afterward I got my GSF. So last night, Jake smiled at me.
We don’t have anything planned for tomorrow, really. A visit to Hillside to scatter some of his favorite candies over his headstone. Watch the nearby fountain in the Garden of Rachel whoosh and splash. In a way, it has become somewhat of a formality as we know no part of him is there, really, other than his ‘mortal remains’. But what really remains is the spark of Jake that we all carry with us everywhere. We’ll carry that spark to Langer’s downtown and eat pastrami sandwiches and remember all the meals we had together as a family. We’ll light candles, have a piece of cake and dream of those days not so long ago when we were all together and everything was possible.
Happy Birthday, Sporty.
Shine On, Jakey Jake.