I haven’t had any really happy days since December 28. I have had somewhat pleasant days, neutral days, numb days, indifferent days, and sad days. For some reason, today is one of the sad ones. I can’t quite place my finger on why, exactly, I should be particularly melancholy today. It isn’t an anniversary of anything, not a Friday night, or a Saturday. Not the 28th of the month. As time slides by, and the layers of my shock and disbelief wear away, I expose kernels of sorrow previously shielded by the routine of everyday life. The realization starts to sink in that he is truly gone and gone. I will never get him back.
We stopped in Palm Springs yesterday afternoon on our way home from Phoenix. We visited with a couple of people that knew Jake, had spent the past several months with him. We talked a bit about those months, how he was, what he was doing right and maybe not so right. How good a soul he was, how kind and caring. How he could make someone laugh, even when she wasn’t necessarily disposed to. How he was progressing, how sad that he was gone, wouldn’t be able to make anyone laugh again. One of his friends said he just popped into her head from time to time to visit. They said they thought of him and us often; that they missed him too. Maybe being in the place he last lived, looking at the mountains that loomed over the golf courses we played on, eating at one of his favorite restaurants, reliving some of those “last times, first times”, activated a time delay sorrow bomb that went off when I woke up this morning.
Perhaps spending the week with my cousin and her family lit the fuse. She babysat for Jake when he was young; both she and her mom loved him. They called him Jakey-Jake. I got to spend time with her son, a fine young man attending ASU, her daughter, still in high school, and her mom, my Mother’s cousin, who has known her (and me, and Jake) from birth. We hung out, went shopping together, laughed and joked. Things I used to do with my son. We had a genuinely good time. Family meals, sharing recipes, teaching E. how to bone a turkey breast. But as always, those good times are tempered by the underlying, unspoken sadness. We didn’t talk about our Jake too much over the weekend, there was no need; his presence is everywhere.
Maybe it was being with Jake’s cousin Jake at Shabbat dinner. I managed to get through the blessings intact this week, another small victory, but I am not sure it is permanent progress. One step up, two steps back sometimes. We took Jake out to lunch a couple of days later and had a very lovely time. We ate pretty good pizza and talked about getting together when Jake is next in Los Angeles. He is another fine young man it is my privilege to spend time with. As much as I truly enjoy being with these “surrogate sons” I have inherited, as much as we enjoy each other’s company, are forging closer bonds each time we meet, I still pine for my own son.
It could have been three innocent words in an email I got a couple of days ago from a long time friend I contacted; she hadn’t heard the news. Those words, “How’s your boy”, brought the familiar heat to my eyes. I had to let her know. I got an email back with her remembrance of Jake at my Dad’s funeral three years ago. “Jake was so nice to me at Joel’s funeral, a true gentleman.” Yes, truly a gentle man. That’s my boy.
Possibly, it was coming home to the daily routine, the realization that this is now my life; always wishing for, always longing for Jake’s return. A return that will never happen. Missing him so fiercely every day is exhausting. I am so tired of this, but I don’t see any respite ahead. I wish I could just stop, but that terrible hollow feeling inside will never go away. It only increases with time. I have a palpable sense of waiting now, more so than usual. Waiting for what, I don’t know. Waiting for some kind of change, some relief from this emptiness I feel. Something to infuse new meaning and relevance. Waiting for a miracle. Waiting for Godot. I know that change must come from within, but right now, I am having a hard time effecting that change. My resources are at an all-time low. I am still grappling with the infinite implications of Jake’s passing, repercussions that will resonate far into the future, and in fact for the rest of my life.
As I left shul this morning, our rabbi wished me “only good things”. Maybe that was the last straw, the final nudge that sent me into the spiral of sadness that was my day today. I had the very best, and now it is gone. What “good thing” can replace Jake? The truth is that it was all of it. My outlook hangs in such a delicate balance; it doesn’t take very much to tip it over into the depth of despondency. Any one of those things could have tripped the switch, but combined, I didn’t stand a chance. I’ll chalk up today as “just one of those days”, and see if tomorrow will bring something different.
© 2014 Ed Colman