It has been a confused week since my last post. So many things to write about and yet so little change overall. I have been missing Jake hugely for the past several days; the intensity seems to be building. My thoughts have been random and disjointed so I have to warn you in advance, this post could be rambling and disjointed; so many events jostle in my brain for recognition and recapitulation.
This past weekend we celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. I am not sure celebrated is the correct word, we are not much in a celebratory mood these days, but we did commemorate it. On Saturday night, the actual date of our wedding, we went to a very nice Italian restaurant in Santa Monica. We ate there last June to celebrate Terry’s birthday with my Mom and Jake. That was a celebration. Eating out is a favorite family activity that goes back generations. My Mom’s mother, my Nana, would have loved this place. The food is exquisite, the ambiance is casually elegant, the service is attentive but not overbearing, in sum, it is one of those places I wish I could eat at once a week. When we were there in June, I cracked a tooth on an olive pit hidden in a slice of olive bread. The restaurant responded admirably, and in addition to referring me to their insurance company for settlement, they also sent a generous gift certificate. Several months and a few dental appointments later, I have a shiny new bionic tooth. The final fitting of the crown was a week ago, last Thursday, and we thought it appropriate to use the occasion of our anniversary to take advantage of their gift. We brought a special bottle of wine, a present from a winemaker we visited in Italy on our trip through Italy back in 2006. Jake was with us on that trip. We went to join him, as he was attending a month-long cooking school in Bologna. We met up with him in Venice, and again in Bologna, and after he completed his program, took a three-week family road trip through Tuscany, Sorrento, Basilicata, and Puglia. What a trip; what wonderful memories. (The story of that journey is a book in itself, currently awaiting publication.)
We had, what would be under different circumstances, a spectacular meal. Shaved artichoke and grilled romaine salads, sweet corn ravioli and fresh spaghetti nero with seafood for the primi, and for our secondi, a beautiful New York steak and a grilled veal chop. Definitely a Jake approved meal. Midway through the meat course we both looked over at the chair in which Jake would have been sitting, if he had been with us, and had such an overwhelming sense of his presence, we started to cry. Silent tears dripped down our faces as servers, patrons, and the sounds of other diner’s conversations swirled around us. Such a gigantic piece of the celebration, and all future celebrations, now missing forever.
Terry and I were together for seven years before we married. Wanting to have children was a big part of that decision. When Jake was born, it was if he had always been with us, as if we had always been together, throughout past lives. He was truly an old soul; you could see it in his face and his demeanor. Now that soul has gone on, to wherever souls go, awaiting yet another reunion. I always said Jake was the best thing I ever did. How will anything else I might accomplish even come close?
On Monday, we went to a nearby resort for the night. Terry’s cousin generously gave us a gift certificate, and we took full advantage. At the desk, the nice young woman upgraded our room to a fabulous oceanfront bungalow suite complete with living room with fireplace, kitchen, Terry’s own bathroom, (a dream come true) and an unobstructed view of the Pacific and Catalina Island from the terrace (with its own fireplace). The management delivered a bottle of chilled champagne with a nice note congratulating us on our Anniversary. We spent a tranquil two days lounging poolside, strolling the grounds, enjoying happy hour overlooking the ocean, saw the biggest pod of dolphins I have ever seen swimming past the point, easily 200 animals that left a dark streak of ruffled water for hundreds of yards behind them, and on the last day, in the late afternoon, a mother grey whale and her calf, not 50 yards offshore. Nice, right? Well, as always, what should have been an unbridled celebration wrapped itself around a core of sadness and longing. As always.
Jake had never been to this place with us, but the accommodations evoked a family trip we took to Hawaii years ago. We stayed at the Turtle Bay resort on the north shore of Oahu, in an oceanside cabana room. It was a wonderful trip, a wonderful time. Swimming in the ocean, playing golf, lounging on the lanai, enjoying each other’s company without a care in the world. Those times are long gone; replaced by a time filled with cares, and a family that will never be whole. Everything we do is infused with these memories. Even in the midst of what should be a joyous moment, the sadness crashes the party and my eyes overflow; my heart aches for the times that will never be.
We are getting ready for Passover, which starts Monday night. Passover is the commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt, the liberation and creation of the Jewish nation. It is a time for celebration and reflection. Each of us has our own “Egypt” our limitations and restrictions. This is a time of year to break those bonds and free ourselves, a time to move beyond our narrow boundaries and find our own freedom. Sadly, I am still a prisoner of my grief. Bound by memory and sadness. It is more difficult for me to find release from this sorrow than for Moses to split the Red Sea. We are not having a Seder this year; it is too difficult to sit at a joyous table bearing this burden of anguish. I don’t want to be a party pooper. Jake is such a huge part of this holiday. One of the commandments is “… Thou shall relate it to your son …”. We are enjoined to pass this story on to our children, to explain the meaning of Passover with all its symbols, rituals, and deeper meaning of personal growth and transformation. To educate the next generation who will then pass it on to their children and on into the future. For thousands of years, fathers have related the story to their families. To whom will I tell it now?
Tonight is Shabbat, the 15th without Jake. Terry will light candles, we will bless the wine and bread. We will call his name, half expecting him to appear at the door, but knowing he never will again fills me with a sadness that will not cease, and questions that will not ever be answered.