I realized today that I have written exactly three installments of this blog since January 1. Oh, I have kept the blog alive by reposting other articles, other’s words. In my last post of March 23 I talked about how Euterpe, the Muse of music, has deserted me for the time being; it seems as if Calliope, the Muse of poetry might have taken a hiatus as well. They have been replaced by Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy.
Much has happened in the 3 months but not much has changed. Holidays have come and gone: Passover, Mother’s Day, my birthday, Father’s Day. Now not so much as days to celebrate, but days to get through. With each impending day, I thought I might write something about it, even had the beginnings of something to say, but I have been enveloped by a flat indifference that I find very difficult to shake. The weeks blend one into another, months slip by, the daily routine grinds on unabated. The sparkle is still missing.
Father’s Day was last Sunday, and when Terry asked what I wanted to do, my reply was, sadly, “What is Father’s Day to me now?” Heartbreaking, isn’t it? But the day still has meaning. I am still Jake’s dad. He made me a father, and nothing, not even his departure, can take my fatherhood away. I will always be Jake’s dad. He taught me how to be a father, what daddies do for their families. They do whatever they have to do to keep them safe, and sheltered, and fed, and together. Tragically, in this noble cause, I cannot say I succeeded completely. On Sunday, I mostly hung around the house, no celebration, no wonderful dinner plans, no gifts. In another time, Jake might have made something lavish and delicious for us; this Father’s day we had take-out pizza for dinner. But something came to mind that I think about from time to time.
When Terry was pregnant with Jake, we were on “baby watch” the last few weeks before her due date. I was working with a cameraman, J_____ on a McDonald’s commercial out at their production facility in the beautiful City of Industry. I had my beeper on, and was constantly expecting the page that would tell me to come home, the baby was on its way. J_____ and I were sitting in the parking lot of the shooting store (McDonald’s maintains a fully operational restaurant specifically for shooting commercials outfitted with roll away furniture, makeup and wardrobe rooms, heavy electrical power for lighting and a host of other production niceties), having a smuggled in beer together (no alcohol is permitted on the property) after the day’s shoot. Now this particular cameraman was a pretty wild guy. He was a notorious partier, would often show up in the morning with a car full of empty beer cans, and we never really had any serious discussions. In fact, it no one took him seriously at all. Well, that evening, while we sipped our contraband beers, he said something that stuck with me. He said that I might think I know what love is, but he said, “You don’t know what love is.” That I wouldn’t really know what true love was until my child was born. I nodded and pretended I knew what he was talking about and cracked open another Silver Bullet. But he was right. The very first thing that Jake taught me was the meaning of true, pure, unconditional, unwavering, unquenchable love. A parent’s love is, as the opening lines of the original Superman TV show goes, “… more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands …” It is like no other. But that love went both ways.
When Jake was little, I would come home from work, and as my key hit the lock, I could hear the thunder of tiny feet behind the door as Jake ran to greet me with the joyous squeal of “Daddy’s home.” I can still hear it. He showed his love for Terry and me in so many ways, it would take 24 years of blogging to tell all the stories. His love was as unconditional as was ours. During his teenage years and beyond, that love was sometimes tested, sometimes shrouded by actions and words, but the thing that never changed was that we all knew we loved each other. We might not have liked what someone did or said, but our love was immutable and unquestionable and we all knew that.
The love that Jake kindled the day he was born burns as brightly as ever. My ongoing grief is measured by the boundless depth of that love. As is any parent’s who has lost a child. We never stop being parents. I will never stop loving him, and conversely, will never stop grieving. That’s just the way it is.
When they talk about the ‘new normal’, what they don’t say is that that new normal includes a perpetual state of grief. Hardly normal. Jake was an only child, so I have no others on which to lavish that father’s love, save in memory, but that doesn’t make it any less real or powerful. I dedicated this past Father’s Day to him, as I did last year, as I will every Father’s Day. It is as much his day as mine.
We lit a candle the day Jake died, and we keep one burning always. It is a symbol of the eternal light that Jake shed on this world, and a reminder of that love we shared.
Shine on, Jakey Jake.