Today was another unremarkable day. I guess that is also progress of a sort. A little puttering around the house, lunch with Terry, and a walk along the jetty in the afternoon. It was one of those beautiful Los Angeles winter days, pure blue sky, clear slanting yellow light, warm breeze. Bright outside, darker inside.
The restaurant we ate at, La Vecchia in Ocean Park, is fraught with memory. Jake started his candle business there many years ago, made tee shirts for them, became friends with the maitre d’, all the waiters, hostesses and barmen, and, of course the owner, worked there for a spell as a cook, welcomed by all, a typical Jake story. It was one of our favorite places, and we ate there nearly every week. About five or six years ago, we just stopped going, and haven’t been back since. We no longer know anyone who works there, no one knew us, and that was a relief. I couldn’t have borne to tell the story yet again. We munched our pizza and pasta in relative calm, no tears, wrapped in many memories. I could almost see him behind the line, tossing my pasta puttanesca in the pan and plating it for me with a wink and a grin.
As Friday evening approached, the melancholy began to descend. Another Shabbat without him. It’s not as if we saw him every day, or spoke with him every day. We visited him in Palm Springs every couple of weeks, took him shopping, out to dinner. Even though he wasn’t living with us, his presence continued to inhabit our home. He had a very strong presence. We phoned him every Friday afternoon to wish him a Shabbat Shalom and to tell him we loved him. Every one except for the last one. (One of many unresolvable regrets.) Now that he is gone, his absence felt so keenly, his solid presence in the world has been replaced by something more ethereal. His spirit, whatever that is. Just as strong but different somehow. It now inhabits my every waking moment, some sleeping moments too. I take him wherever I go. But I always did.
When he was living, part of him was with me all the time. Every parent knows what I mean. We carry our children around with us. We are not always conscious of that, the day-to-day aspects of life prevent us from thinking about them constantly, but he was always there in the back of my mind. I knew he was okay, was alive, wherever he was. I would see something cool, “Oh, Jake would dig that”, I’d think. Terry and I talked about what he would like us to bring him on our bi-weekly visits. Even thought he wasn’t constantly around, we always had the expectation of seeing him again. That is a luxury I no longer enjoy. Although, I do still glimpse him all the time. Last week I thought a young man walking on the street was him. Same unkempt bed head, same scruffy beard, same Wayfarer sunglasses, same slight swagger as he walked. The impression was so strong, I almost rolled down the window and called out his name. I nearly drove my car onto the sidewalk because I was staring at him so intently, trying to turn him into Jake. It didn’t work.
Now it is evening. Terry lit the candles to welcome the Shabbat Queen. It is time to pour out the wine and bless this day of rest. But for us, there is no respite. No rest from the weariness. No rest from the sorrow. I will try to get through the blessings without dissolving. We will have a quiet dinner, so much left unspoken. But not unsaid. Tomorrow we’ll join our community for a time, surrounded by people who truly care for us, and that is a blessing for which we are eternally grateful. We shall try to rest a little. Try to recoup some strength to face yet another week without our darling son in the world.