Today is the 3-month anniversary of Jake’s death. It is still difficult to believe he is gone.
In these past three months, I have written many words, this post will take me past the 30,000 mark, posted hundreds of pictures, received hundreds of messages, calls, cards, and comments from friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers both through my mailbox and online. It is as, if I can assemble enough words, look at enough pictures, talk to enough people, tell enough stories about him, use his left-behind belongings, like Pygmalion, I can bring my Galatea of words to life and have my son here with me again. Sadly, that is not possible; there is no Aphrodite to breathe life into these essays.
His presence is always with me, surrounding me in nearly everything I do. This morning I shaved (after several days), using the vintage gold double-edged Gillette I bought for him on eBay only a few months ago. He was right behind me, watching me in the mirror. Occasionally, I will put on his wristwatch and wear it for the day. If I could find the Parker 45 fountain pen that I got for him, I would use it to write in my journal. I contemplated having new lenses put into his old frames to make reading glasses for myself, so I could be closer to him while I write.
A couple of weeks ago, we were in Ojai, enjoying the quiet and solitude of our friends home. Every afternoon, around 4 PM, a huge amber bee would hover over the wind chimes I restrung, hanging in the lower branches of one of the white birch trees. This bee would just buzz around, right at eye-level, never alighting, moving from one side of a branch to the other, turning this way and that, sometimes facing me, sometimes away. His loud buzzing is what attracted me in the first place; I could hear it from fifty feet away. I wanted to see what creature was making such a large noise. As I watched this bee drifting through the branches only a few feet from my face, I wondered aloud, ”Is that you, Jake?” Some months ago, he posted a photo of himself, wearing a garish yellow shirt splayed out on a stack of carpets in a Target store or some such place with the caption, “I’m a fucking bumble bee.” It would be just like his wicked sense of humor to come back to visit as a giant orange bee. “Is that you, Jake?”
There are signals and signs of him everywhere, it seems. I have yet to have meaningful dreams about him, but others have had very vivid dreams and indications of his presence. I don’t need to dream to feel him near me, I take him with me wherever I go. I always think, “Jake would like this”, or “Jake would laugh at this”, or “Look at that idiot. Jake would have something sarcastic to say about his pants”. Much of my daily experience is now focused through the lens of my awareness of his absence. As has been observed elsewhere by myself, and others, paradoxically his absence is such a huge presence now.
We are in Phoenix this weekend, visiting my cousin and her family. We will have Shabbat dinner with them this evening. Another cousin, another Jake, who is attending Arizona State University, will join us. When the two Jakes were younger, our Jake, who had been born a year or so before Terry’s cousin’s son, became Big Jake, and his cousin was Little Jake. Now “Little Jake”, is a handsome young man, six feet tall; we can no longer call him “Little Jake”. The boys were friends when they were kids, and remained close. (Big Jake on the right, Little Jake, seated on the left. Another cousin, Sam in the middle.) So we will have a lovely dinner, reminisce about our Jake, laugh together and cry together. For a time, we will bring him back into our midst once again, but it is at these family gatherings we miss him the most.
He will always live in our memories, in the remembrance of his friends and family, in the stories we tell about him, in the millions of words we speak about him, in the thoughts we have of him. He lives in the first thin rays of sunlight spilling across a beautifully manicured fairway, in the crunch of a perfectly cooked pizza crust, in the cold creaminess of exceptional gelato, in the kindness we do for each other, in the fierce loyalty of friendship, in the laugh of children, in the birds and the wind and the stars.
© 2014 Ed Colman