August 19, 1989 was Jake’s birthday. In years past, when Jake was young, we would have had a wonderful party, our home filled with friends and family. We had some epic parties. Taking over parks, playing laser tag, (remember laser tag?), barbecues in the back yard, many wonderful dinners. Some years we were in Kauai for our annual family vacation and celebrated his birthday there. In 2006, the year of our last real family trip together, we were in Italy. We had a wonderful dinner in Brindisi by the shores of the Adriatic. It was always a celebration wherever we were. Birthdays were a big deal in our family, especially for Jake. He made us a family.
Today was the second August 19th we have had to spend without Jake. Last year we had a gathering at our home of some of his close friends. Terry baked his favorite fudgy chocolate cake. We sat out on the deck and ate cake and ice cream and shared memories. Today I found my eyes filled with tears most of the day. We weren’t able to do much of anything. We didn’t lay flowers on his grave, didn’t have a picnic or release a flock of white doves. He really isn’t at the cemetery anyway, he is wherever we are, wherever his friends are, wherever and whenever someone whom he has touched remembers his laughter, his wit, his compassion, his intelligence, his charm, his friendship, his light and his love.
This morning, T who is recovering from a bout of respiratory infection, called me into the bedroom. She was watching the classic movie channel schedule and at 11 AM, there it was; an obscure John Wayne movie called Big Jake. We called our Jake that when his cousin, also Jake, a year younger than he, was born. Our Jake was Big Jake and his cousin was Little Jake. Now Little Jake is six feet tall, graduated from ASU last year, and no longer ‘Little’. What was even more uncanny is that the Wayne’s character in the movie was called Jacob McCandles. When our Jake was young, he had a candle business, selling votives to local restaurants. One of many businesses. McCandles indeed. There were many such messages in the past few days: A stack of hummingbird plates at the 99 cent store, a bright orange dragonfly buzzing around the deck, the birthday he shares with others.
Today is International Photography Day, the anniversary of the first presentation of the Daugerreotype in Paris on August 19, 1839. August 19th is also the birthday of Orville Wright, Gene Roddenberry, Bill Clinton, and Coco Chanel. Jake was an avid science fiction reader, fascinated by flight and space, had the charm and charisma of Clinton, the fashion sense of Coco, (he was a very snappy dresser), and was an accomplished photographer.
Odd how that works.
I have heard that the second year is worse than the first, and while the raw agony has softened, it has morphed into an indelible sadness that underlies my every waking moment. I find those tears at the most random and unexpected times. In a way, I am still in the denial phase. I just can’t believe it. He is so alive in my memory and heart, I somehow expect him to show up at the door any day now. As anyone who has experienced such a loss knows, those stages of grief repeat and loop back on each other at random. Somedays anger, somedays bargaining, some days shock, some days just that flat greyness that makes it difficult to accomplish anything. It is worse in that the numbness of those awful first months has worn off, and we now have to face the rest of our lives without our beautiful boy. How can this be?
I have been thinking about the “new normal” that is so often talked about in the “grief literature”, and have concluded that while we have learned to live in a new reality, there is nothing normal about it. I have learned a lot about this new “normal”, what is now normal for me; perhaps that is the topic for another post.
What I do know, is that we must always remember the best of Jake. He wasn’t perfect, God knows none of us are. We were sorely tested and challenged by him during the last few years, but the true Jake, the authentic Jake was one of the best and brightest people. I may be a bit biased, but ask anyone who knew him. They will tell you the same.
I found these posts on Jake’s Facebook page today. They say more about him than I could ever write in a million words –
Jake, I was thinking this week about the time you came to visit me at USC for my poorly planned “dinner party” and completely saved the day with your bag of tools (how did I expect to serve salad with no salad tongs?) and your culinary suggestions that made everything taste 1000x better. And then we sat through that terrible and ridiculous all-female student production of some intense and overly political Pinter play, where we mistakenly sat in the front row of the very tiny theater and therefore couldn’t leave no matter how uncomfortable we got.
That, and the time that you piled in my two-door car with at least 4 other dudes because I had offered rides to too many people to my friend’s improv show (sorry about that one).
And the time you came over and stayed up half the night to help me help my roommate make an audition tape for some gig she was trying to book. We never would’ve survived that night if it weren’t for you… not just your help on the video, but your presence, which, like most of my memories with you, turned what could’ve been a disastrous experience into a blast.
So basically, what I’ve always known is that you were an amazing friend to me no matter what, but what I’m realizing now is that I hope I was at least sometimes as good of a friend back to you. I love you and miss you, Jakey. Happy birthday.
– Thinking of all my incredible memories with Jake on his birthday. Love and miss you.
– Happy birthday Jake. You are loved so deeply and missed every single day
– happy birthday dearest friend. keep lookin over us! ❤ miss you
This –(along with a link to Racing in the Streets by Bruce Springsteen)
Happy birthday Jake 😉 words could never match up to the memories and good times and friendship and love we shared and they will all forever love and live on through your spirit, and through mine, and through the memories, and through those good times, I’ll never forget all the days and nights we’d go out driving just to experience the freedom, I love you so much always and forever, and I miss you so, so much. ❤
And this – Your birthday 26 years ago was the best day in my life. Miss you my beautiful boy.
So Happy Birthday Jake. Sporty. Sparky. Jakey Jake. Junior. Little Dude. J-A-C-O-B. You are sorely missed by all whom you touched. We hold you in our hearts forever, Our Beautiful Boy.