Poetry, prose, random stream of consciousness, I don’t know where this is going. I’m just labeling it – It is what it is.
Update 1 General grammatical cleanup- More at the bottom, Post Yizkor for my Mom and pre Shiva for Scott
Update 2 – Post Shiva for Scott – At the bottom, for those who already read or what to skip my ramblings.
In a day, a weekend or a week, I am so many ages, its hard to keep track.
Woken up on Sunday morning, unable or willing to climb out of bed, I felt like a teenager.
As consciousness slowly trickled in and my senses were flooded by my wife and children, I was somewhere in my mid 30′s (my default if inaccurate perceived age of myself).
I stayed there until my wife took the kids on a playdate. I walked around my empty home and I was in my twenties.
I asked Siri, what was the temperature. It said brrr and told me, and I felt like some undefinable manchild – boys and their toys and all.
It put on my medium temperature compression tights, an absorbent shirt, and a jacket from a race where I set my personal 1/2 marathon record. I was solidly in my in my thirties. Yet I couldn’t help but think of my years at Bullis wishing I had that type of gear for all of those cold cross country practices and races.
Still feeling solidly in my 30′s, I bent down to tie my running shoes and, well, felt a few years older. Which made think of Melissa and her admonishments of my lack of stretching. Then I was a teen again, replaying similar words from various Cross Country coaches. I thought of Bullis and Scott and I was sad.
By mile 1 I just felt plain old from a long winter of illness, injuries, and time conflicts causing a general lack of running.
By mile 2 my form and breathing were in check, if not my speed, and I felt 30.
Then realizing how close I was to my parents old house, the house I grew up in, I felt both old and young at the same time.
Miles 3 through 10, endorphins and runner’s high were solidly in place. I was 20 and indestructible.
On my cooldown walk up the hill to my house I thought of Scott, my mom, and when I was waiting for my own MRI results. I lost that sense of invulnerability.
Unlocking the door to my house, my age was indefinable, but the emptiness of it left me feeling alone.
I downed two ice cold cokes and sat at my iMac, logged on to facebook. I saw beautiful messages about my adult novelette and my children’s stories. I saw pictures of relatives that are too far away to see regularly and my own beautiful family. I was not alone and again solidly in my 30′s.
I climbed into a long hot shower to wash away some of the glorious aches from my run, and felt my age drop.
The bathroom door opens and my oldest said hi Abba (Father), we’re home, and I was once again solidly in my 30′s.
That afternoon my stomach ached. I blame it on nearly a week of Passover food. My wife blames it on the crap I put in my body. Either way I felt like a child.
Somehow I fell asleep through the pain and woke up to my wife telling me she was on her way out and it was time for me to read to the kids and put them in bed.
I gathered the kids into my bed and read to them from one of the Magic Tree House books. I felt both like I was in my 30′s and at the same time seeing the story through my children’s eyes I felt 5 or 6 as I remembered my mom reading to me stories of magic and wonder.
Saturday morning (yes I am going backwards) I awoke much the same way and to much the same feelings as I did on Sunday. It was Shabbat and I felt a guilty twinge as I reached for my iPad. I’m not sure how old I felt. We didn’t grow up observant at all, but I did have that feeling like I was breaking some parental rule by using my iPad on Shabbos. Silly I know, being a grown adult on my very own religious path.
I see wonderful messages about my writing and I start the morning off with the warm and fuzzies.
That changes when I see a group chat message, filled with people from my High School, Bullis. I feel young again until I start reading the long thread. One of us was gone, suddenly and far too early. Possibly an aneurysm it says. I think of my mother and maternal grandfather. While they outlived Scott by a bit more than a couple of decades, they too died too young of the very same thing. I look at my beautiful children and can’t help but wonder if they too have a ticking time bomb in their heads. I think about that every time Josh complains of a headache which in all likelihood is nothing more than allergies and sinus pain. I thought about the days I waited for my test results and the years of preceding migraines. I thought about the guilt and relief I felt when my test were all clear. I thought about Scott again and was so terribly sad for his family. I thought about the little lies I tell my kids – Of course there is a Tooth fairy and I can keep you safe from everything and everyone. I feel like a helpless child.
I read the semi-private tread a bit more, especially the joyful thoughts of remembrance. I felt like I was in High School again. And I think of Scott. No, I wouldn’t have called him a friend, at least not by today’s standards. A social acquaintance. Someone I would see in the hallways or at a party and talk briefly to about nothing in particular. Just a nice guy that almost always had a smile on his face. But I can’t help but feel the loss. He was one of us. And with that thought I am in highschool again. One Of Us, what does that mean? I never felt like One Of Us in High School. I had my share of friends, but I felt terribly alone and out of place. I felt this most of High School. It didn’t matter if I was at a large party, a crowded hallway, or alone in my room writing angsty and ultimately vapid poetry. I felt alone. I think of Scott and I wonder, is that how he felt deep down inside back then? I hope not! But I know oh so many people that now, as the adults we are supposed to be, admit to this on some level or another. A lot of us wore masks to varying degrees, with varying levels of success to hide the loneliness, that feeling of being an outsider even amongst friends. We would trick ourselves at parties with alcohol and for some drugs. I would temporarily fool myself with various encounters of physical intimacy, that I was probably too young for, in an attempt sublimate my desire for the emotional intimacy that I was too scared to ask for or accept. As I think of this I am clearly in my 40′s.
I put down the iPad, down a cup of coffee and head to the bathroom. I take my don’t worry, be happy pills. So many of them, I feel like a geriatric patient. Fuck, its is a Prozac nation, I know I am not alone in this. I shower and dream of movie deals for my books and hitting and staying on top of bestseller lists. I backup to somewhere in my mid thirties again.
I dress as the fog clears from the mirror. I start to run my fingers through my medium to longish hair. Multiple threads of grey on the side of my head make me feel in my 40′s. A little product rubbed into my hands and then into my mostly dark hair, flipped back and to the side, sufficiently cover the gray. I look in the mirror and see someone I would guess to be in their thirties if I didn’t know better. Not me in my mid 30′s that is. Then I still looked like I was in High School. Something out of 21 Jump Street. OK I have just aged myself for real.
Elijah is sick and Melissa agrees to stay home with him. I ask her if she wants me to say a prayer for her Zaddie (Grandfather) at Shul. He is in the ICU and is not doing well. This somehow turns into a small fight because we both failed to communicate and jumped to unfounded conclusions. I feel old and tired.
I find my Kippah and grab the bag with snacks for Josh, his water, kippah, sunglasses and my Tallis Bag. We set out on our walk to Shul. We say Good Shabbos to those we pass, or who pass us. Josh holds tight to my hand when we cross streets and I get that warm and fuzzy feeling back. I am 35. We get to the place that Josh likes to climb and walk across a brick wall which is somewhere between our heights. I waffle between feeling 35 and the protective parent, and the little kid that had to climb everything, everywhere. I am 6, at least when I see the wall through his eyes.
We get to Shul and I am 35 again. trying to watch Josh and pay attention to the services. Kids services start and and Josh heads downstairs. I’m more focused on the service. At first I am once again uncomfortable with the fact I can’t read the Hebrew. I never learned. I feel about 7 or 8, struggling in Hebrew school. I had a hard enough time telling left from right in the secular school system, now you’re changing it on me. Then the parts of the service I am more familiar with kicked in. We only recently started going at the beginning instead of when the kids services started, and for a moment I was 13. Singing loud and proud at my Bar Mitzvah, pretending to be reading along while really reciting from rote memorization. Then I was lost in prayer. Ageless, but exceedingly young and incalculably old all at the same time.
Services ended. No kiddush today as it is still Pesach (Passover). I was hungry and really wanted to go home. Josh wanted to stay and play with his friends. I was 35 ignoring my stomach, watching him run around and floating between conversations with my friends.
Later that day I was hit by a wave of exhaustion and fell asleep on the couch. I felt like I was 20 and in college, taking a break between classes and lifeguarding at the pool. Melissa woke me up and was exhausted as well. We traded, she napped and watched a movie while I played with the boys outside until dinner. I was 35 again. I stayed that way as I read to the boys and tucked them in goodnight. Melissa and I just stayed in bed and chatted in a way we have rarely done since the kids were born. I was, younger and in a good place. But in the back of my mind Scott was never out of my head.
I won’t bore you with the ins and out of the workweek. It all blends together and is pretty much the same. Me rushing out the door like I am going to be late to a class in college, and feeling that age and at the same time in my 30′s as I say goodbye to my wife and kids. I drive a bit too fast on the highway, when traffic allows, feeling like I’m in my 20′s or a teen. I do my day job and handle whatever comes up, flexing between my 30′s and 40′s. Occasionally having to make a decision that will have a huge impact on someone’s life, feeling oh so much older. Late nights and off to bed.
I can’t stop thinking about tomorrow and wondering how old I will be then. Tomorrow, the last day of Pesach and one of the 4 times a year to say Yizkor (A prayer of remembrance typically said for a lost parent, sibling or child). Last year I posted about my first real experience with it and how the experience had touched me. This time will I feel old through remembering the loss of my mom, or young as memories like stopping on the side of the road on our way to Lakewood to pick honeysuckles wash over me? I suspect I will feel both. I’m sure Scott’s family, if they are observant, will say Yizkor for him tomorrow, but I also know he will be on my mind. Tomorrow afternoon/evening is the Shiva they are having for him in Maryland. I am going to do my best to be there. As I said I wasn’t particularly close with Scott in High School and we never reconnected afterwards, but he was One Of Us. Thankfully I haven’t been to many Shiva’s for people my age group. Sadly I know that will change over the years. I don’t know what age I will feel like, I supposes it will flip flop between the awkward High School student to the more confident adult. I also suppose I will see this in terms of my own aging and mortality. But I think mostly I won’t be consciously thinking of age at all. I will see Scott’s mom and try an empathize with the unimaginable grief of losing a child, something I am not honestly sure I could survive. I will be there for One Of Us, as a former classmate, fellow Jew, and Human Being that clearly touched so many lives.
Update 1 Post Yizkor
This past February, for the first time on Elijah’s birthday, I didn’t sneak away for a minute or two to shed a tear for my mom. I suppose I was saving it for Yizkor. I thought of my mom, I thought of Scott, and I thought of Melissa who may lose her grandfather soon. I can’t lie, my eyes watered. As covertly as I could, I wiped away the tear or ten that fell. I didn’t have the same spiritual experience that I have in the past, at least not during the service. Afterwards, as the room cleared, I made my way to the back wall. All of the lights on the memorial plaques were lit. I found the one for my mom, closed my eyes, and touched the plaque. And for a moment, just a moment, I felt her presence or the memory of her presence depending on your spiritual beliefs. It was a moment of pure peace. As I walked home from Shul, I thought about that moment and hope that Scott’s family was able to find some way to connect like that today.
Update 2 Post Shiva
Where to begin? I was still tired out from the last of Passover services and Yizkor. An a very exhausting “thing” that I can’t talk about yet – Spoilers….
I arrived at Scott’s mom’s house. Gorgeous, seriously gorgeous house. When I first entered I was met by Scott’s brother Glenn. It took me a second, then I was like wait, you went to Bullis too, right? He said, yeah, but only until 10th grade. That’s when it clicked. Oh yeah, we had Mrs. Lee’s Biology class together. With that the image of him in High School came flooding back. He has grown up into such a strong man. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be as collected at my brother’s Shiva. He introduced me to their mom. As with Glenn I was blown away by her. Ellen greeted me with a thankful smile, a hug and kiss on the cheek. I ran into Glen again and we caught up. I had seen some of his artwork online and I told him how talented he is, artistic in a different way than his brother, but an artist for sure. He is really brilliant, if you haven’t seen his work, check it out.
I made a lot of small talk and caught up with several people. I met one fascinating lady that was 2 years ahead of me and had no idea who she was. That I honestly found strange. Bullis was tiny, we all knew each other regardless of grade. Plus I have an outstanding memory for beautiful women. What can I say, it’s a gift. She has an adorable daughter, at least if the picture is any indication. Ok I wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise but she was talking about some of the books she reads to her. So of course I had to tell her about Egret the Elephant Volume:1 and that Volume 2 should be out in May!
The ceremony was beautiful. It wasn’t a full shiva, just some selected prayers lead by a friend of Ellen’s. Beautiful choices, each and everyone. Ellen and Glenn each read a bit. Again I was amazed by their strength. His step father talked about how Scott first told them he was going to be a musician. They were less than thrilled. But he had an amazing talent that they finally understood an appreciated. Ellen read from one of his songs, which I hadn’t heard before but was beautiful. His step father proudly talked about how so much of the music you hear in TV commercials are Scott’s creations. All three of them were beaming with pride, even if teary eyed. Another lady recounted when Scott was a child he told her he could cross the house without touching the floor. He then proceeded to bounce from furniture piece to furniture piece, around the house without touching the ground, Ellen remarked, that was Scott. He moved through life without ever having to touch the ground. The whole thing was sad, but so beautiful. A demonstration of the bright streak of life he left in his wake.
The lady I mentioned earlier, who was very close with Scott, brought Pizza, his favorite food. OK, maybe the sun hadn’t quite past the horizon before I took a bite. But it was close enough for the good reason of celebrating a life. So I took a piece before passover was officially over. It was delicious.
At some point friend #3 showed up. She mostly kept her back to me. I don’t blame her, though I wish we could get past this animosity. After I asked her how her kids were, she half turned and mumbled a response. The tension was too much for me. All I kept thinking was on a night like tonight when we are so clearly reminded how short life can be, why not let go of whatever anger you are holding on to. But it was to much and I had to leave. I found Ellen, told her while I was saying Yizkor for my mom, I also had Scott on my mind this morning, as well. She gave me another kiss and I was on my way. Yes, stupid me tried to call Number #3, no answer. I said something to the effect of coming back to a cordial place. We didn’t have to be super close again, but the animosity was just painful and draining. Sadly I am sure it was deleted without a listen, but what can you do. I don’t hold any animosity towards her, and can’t imagine I ever will. And as I said in the post I linked to above, know I truly think the world of her. She is a good person with a kind heart. We were both in troubled times and our friendship ended badly. For our mutual friends and acquaintances should you find it necessary to take sides, take hers. She is a good person and deserves to be treated as such. Certainly better than she was ever treated in High School.
Rest in peace Scott.
I’m often not sure where my posts or stories will go when I started them. The idea was poem, but prose was sticking its head in, and I know it ended up mostly a stream of consciousness. So I guess it is what it is.