Monday, July 27, 2009

Us, In Paris, Missing Pablo

Grady, Jo Ann and I at dinner tonight—Georges, atop the Pompidou Musee.

We all miss Pablo. Even when we're excited about seeing a fave Pablo Picasso painting in person for the first time. Jo Ann wept at the sight of some Picasso pieces in the National Picasso Musee—one or two that specifically reminded her of our Pablo, whom we miss like hell. Even when we're navigating our way through a series of out-of-the-way Paris side streets—amazed that we're actually making our way, just as we are amazed that we made our way through the soul-shredding episode of Pablo's treatment. Even when we are—and this is the hardest part—laughing or relaxing into happiness. ('How can I be happy?' I always think to myself.)

At dinner this evening, we began our feelings check-in. We made a commitment at the start of this trip to take time out twice a day to stop and come together. Racing through a city eating and shopping and sightseeing while aching from the heart does not constitute real communication about what's going on inside. What's going on inside all of us is the same thing, and sharing our feelings, memories, observations about ourselves and one another with one another is helpful. So, as we picked at our entrees at Georges, the restaurant atop Du Centre Pompidou, the famous Paris modern art museum, the discussion began.

Each of us had observed another in a Pablo trance. Grady saw me looking at a boy about Pablo's age last night at dinner. A cutely-attired Pablo-sized mannequin in the front window of a clothing shop caught Grady's eye, and mine, and we both saw one another seeing it. On Rue de Rivoli today Jo Ann slowed and stopped at the window of a bookseller. Inside was a big display of Le Petit Prince books. I saw her looking at it and didn't say anything. I could say anything at any time to Jo Ann. But she stepped away from the window without acknowledging what she saw, and the moment slipped away. For the first ever time, I didn't know what to say to my wife. So I let the moment continue to slip away, knowing we'd talk about it later. Sometime.

Grady is very clear when he talks about Pablo. He says he thinks about him constantly. He's either thinking about him every second, or every minute. Tonight, he told Jo Ann and I that when we're off doing something on our own, he feels lonely. At those moments, he realizes that for the past six years he's always played with Pablo while his parents have been in the other room talking or working or reading or whatever. And now it's just him. He told us those moments are saddening for him. It brings his grief into full bore.

We all talked about guilt. Mostly about times we put Pablo off to do something else—like finishing a task for a few minutes, making Pablo wait to play a game he was eager to play with us. Before the conversation got too deep, Jo Ann pulled back. I said that no matter what, in any situation, with any two people, there will be scenarios that can cause guilt. And there's no positive end to it—and certainly to usefulness to it.

Jo Ann and Grady are sleeping as I write this, so I can't get their input on what I'm about to say. Surely, their list of specific things they miss about Pablo would be as long as mine. Surely I will write these things when they tell me.

I miss Pablo's hands—he was always holding my hand, always wanting to put his fingers between mine. We called that 'fingers in.'

I miss putting on Pablo's shoes. He'd sit on the top stair in our front hallway. He'd pick out his shoes—he always knew which pair he wanted to wear—and he'd usually throw a few steps below me. He'd always laugh. I sometimes laughed with him, and sometimes got frustrated.

I miss snuggling with Pablo at night. We had a going-to-bed ritual: he'd pick out a book (for him, it meant five), jump in bed, curl up into me, kiss me goodnight, then I'd read to him. My logic with the kiss before the story was: if he fell asleep during the story, I wouldn't miss kissing my son goodnight. I truly loved every minute of the tuck-ins. And many nights, it would take 45 minutes or an hour.

I miss our patois. Our rhyming and linguistic scheming. Every day I think of things we used to say to one another. Our own little language. Things I can't use with other people. People who aren't Pablo. 'Hungry like a mungry' is one of them. See? What would you say if I said to you, 'Dude, I'm hungry like a mungry!' Pablo knew. He'd say something like, 'Me like a la shoo!' This is one of the rawest pieces for me, the place I miss him so so so deeply. I think it's cos I was not an adult or a parent when we were in this place. I was a kid. I was with Pablo, where he was.

I miss being a Papa. I loved being Pablo's Papa. I was just getting good at it. Pablo and I had this special bond ripped from the flesh of our palms. Lots of words and sentiments in the neighborhood of anguish, anger and angst rise up when I center my intellect and my emotional self on this particular volcano of hurt.

Walking around Paris in July, everywhere, there are parents and kids. Outwardly, I don't relate to people who are Dutch, German, Polish, Turkish. They speak a different language. They are often red in the face from the sun in a lower latitude. Inwardly, I relate a hundred percent to the Norwegian dad and his kids. To the Belgian dude and his daughter. To the older gentleman from Holland and his two grown sons sitting in a cafe after the Tour de France finish. And even deeper, in that place we call the soul, I want to disintegrate. I want to dis-integrate. Fascinating to pull that word apart. And it's exactly how I felt seeing my Dutch cafe mate yesterday. Why? Because he was in his 60s, sitting with his two sons in their 30s. And I will never have that with Pablo and Grady. I can only have that with Grady. Pablo will be with us, but not in the flesh.That tears at the ties that bind me to humanity, to life, to wanting...anything.

I can only tell the story as it is actually happening. And this is how it is for me, for us, today.

Speaking of today, it's time for me to end 27 July 2009. Time for me to admit that the day is over, and I need rest. Tomorrow at noon we leave France and fly to Venice. We'll be in Italy for nearly two weeks. Can't wait.

17 comments:

Heather said...

I grapple for the right words.There aren't any.None whatsoever.I love you guys.Know that.

Anonymous said...

Grief and loss are terrible things. Your story is so touching and painful, but thank you for sharing it with so many. Sadness and happiness do exist side by side. It seems sureal and confusing, but that is life for us all. Your story is unique, and at the same time we all have some resonance to it.
You hurt so much because you were all so blessed by your special love with Pablo. That love will never die, nor will your precious memories.
May the warm Italian sun bathe you all in peace, and may you find butterflies as well!
xo Kathy R. xo

Drea said...

"Hungry like a mungry" is a great memory, a great and distinctive piece of Jeff-and-Pablo. I hope you write those down whenever they come to you, and continue to think on them and remember them. I imagine that those are the kinds of sayings and moments you miss to the core and fear forgetting, but you're so very good at not forgetting. You'll want all of those that you can remember. Safe travels and love to you all.

The Hearnes said...

I wept at this post. Your eloquent words - words that speak to the soul - are beautiful.

What a genuine tribute to your beloved Pablo on the one-month anniversary of his passing from this life. I can imagine Pablo's smile as he watches the three of you holding onto each other and loving one another and communicating with one another for comfort.

Our continued pablove and prayers,
Tish & family

Jesse said...

Jeff, Jo Ann and Grady:

In being inspired by Lance and his story and deeply connected to the purpose of the LIVESTRONG foundation, I am indirectly connected to your family's experience in losing Pablo. In having lost my younger brother Eric to leukemia(ALL), who passed away May 28, 1991 just after his sixth birthday, and later volunteering on the oncology unit at CHLA while completing my undergraduate degree, I am more directly connected to and deeply moved by your experience. I have found myself filled with emotion and memories reading your posts and browsing the pictures on the blog. I hope that you will all find solace with time, amidst the myriad of emotions you are experiencing. Though I can certainly relate, each of us experiences the loss and emotions as our own. I wish you much love and support as you grieve and process individually, with one another and amidst the immediate and larger communities with whom you've chosen to share your experience. As is apparent from your blog and the work of the Pablove foundation, Pablo's spirit has already touched many across the world in a way you might never have imagined. This is an immeasuaable gift from Pablo that will undoubtedly live on forever...

Anonymous said...

I learned of Pablo when Jennifer Beals competed in her triathlon last September and have been following your journey ever since. My heart goes out to you, JoAnn, and Grady. You and your family have tremendous courage. Today's note hit me in particular realizing that I too have a language I speak with my 5 year old. We say "we are starving like Marvin". I know of the guilt you wrote about. Like when I put off my children when they ask to play a game or need some assistance with something. As a parent we all do it and there is nothing wrong with it. As parents we are there for our children 24/7 like you and JoAnn were for Pablo. I told my daughter about the brave little boy from Los Angeles. She will be running her first race in a few weeks and we will be dedicating it to Pablo.

I can't imagine the pain you all must feel. However, in a small corner of Long Island, NY there is a family that thinks of Pablo and your family and prays for you. god bless!

Anonymous said...

my heart feels heavy after reading this post. visualizing the three of you surrounded by love and light

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,
your words of love for your child are deep. I have been virtually turned inside out by your sweet little boy's life and his story. Pablo seemed so much like you.
I cannot explain it here, an experience I had, but when you wrote about him being everywhere, you are 100% right.
as spiritual beings, I believe we choose our parents and our physical life...we know everything, absolutely everything. then we are born. the fortunate beings with us, are elevated, they know the importance of nature and of love. I apologize if this is too "spiritual", but it seems that you are there.

you know all the signs are there for you. I call it rubbing my eyes and cleaning my ears, for the necessary awareness.

the following is a poem, it was written by hafiz, a persian poet from the 14th c. I copied it ages ago, and it fell out of a book the day I heard about pablo's passing.

I thought, if ever any kind of love, because we fall in love with our children, could be expressed in words, it would be these words...
---------------------------------------

I wish I could speak like music.
I wish could put the swaying splendor of the fields
into words,
so that you could hold truth again to
your body and dance.

I am trying the best I can with this crude brush,
the tongue,
to cover you with light.

I wish I could speak like divine music.

I want to give you the sublime rhythms of the earth and the skies limbs as they joyously spin and surrender, surrender against the cosmic breath.

I want you to hold this music against your precious body and dance, dance.

---------------------------------------

we are all praying for you and your wife and both sons.



the first thing I did, unintentionally/very easily, when I arrived in venice was get lost, for hours. then it became a ritual. of course, I always had a map tucked away, but I highly recommend this to venetian bound travelers.


xchristine stocking

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,
your words of love for your child are deep. I have been virtually turned inside out by your sweet little boy's life and his story. Pablo seemed so much like you.
I cannot explain it here, an experience I had, but when you wrote about him being everywhere, you are 100% right.
as spiritual beings, I believe we choose our parents and our physical life...we know everything, absolutely everything. then we are born. the fortunate beings with us, are elevated, they know the importance of nature and of love. I apologize if this is too "spiritual", but it seems that you are there.

you know all the signs are there for you. I call it rubbing my eyes and cleaning my ears, for the necessary awareness.

the following is a poem, it was written by hafiz, a persian poet from the 14th c. I copied it ages ago, and it fell out of a book the day I heard about pablo's passing.

I thought, if ever any kind of love, because we fall in love with our children, could be expressed in words, it would be these words...
---------------------------------------

I wish I could speak like music.
I wish could put the swaying splendor of the fields
into words,
so that you could hold truth again to
your body and dance.

I am trying the best I can with this crude brush,
the tongue,
to cover you with light.

I wish I could speak like divine music.

I want to give you the sublime rhythms of the earth and the skies limbs as they joyously spin and surrender, surrender against the cosmic breath.

I want you to hold this music against your precious body and dance, dance.

---------------------------------------

we are all praying for you and your wife and both sons.



the first thing I did, unintentionally/very easily, when I arrived in venice was get lost, for hours. then it became a ritual. of course, I always had a map tucked away, but I highly recommend this to venetian bound travelers.


xchristine stocking

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,


your writings of sweet pablo are profound. I hope I am not out of line in saying this, but your pain is giving you a gift now, in that you are feeling your boy. the pain has done away with all filters. lucid verve, I call the extreme feeling when you are so aware, that you realize the universe has signs everywhere for us.

I believe we are all spiritual beings before physical ones, we know everything about everything and then we are born+ some know the importance of nature + love.


this is the poem I want to share with you, I copied it ages ago and it dropped out of a book the day I found out about pablo passing. it was written by hafiz, a persian from 14thc. I send it to you because we all fall in love with our children.

------------------------------------

I wish I could speak like music
I wish I could put the swaying splendor of the fields
into words, so that you could hold truth against your body and dance.

I am trying the best I can with this crude brush, the tongue, to cover you with light.

I wish I could speak like divine music.

I want to give you the sublime rhythms of the earth and the skies limbs as they joyously spin and surrender, surrender against the cosmic breath.

I want you to hold this music against your precious body,
and dance, dance.

________________________________________________


I am praying for you, jo ann, grady and pablo, that you know you are so loved.

xoxchristine stocking

p.s.you are going to the best place in the world to get lost, which is what I did ritually. it is a very good way to enliven instinct/intuition.

Nora said...

you are all so incredibly strong. i wish i could pick you up and carry you through the hardest parts of this awful time.

as you struggle to find the strength to write, to talk, to breathe, please remember this: the more of pablo you share with us, the more we get to fall in love with him. and the truest beauty is in the details.

i'll dream of pablo tossing his shoes down the stairs, laughing. you've given us all such a gift.

Anonymous said...

your words are eloquent, and your love is beautiful, it transcends everything. Believe it or not, I saw a boy on the train yesterday and I had to think of Pablo. And I'm German, i have never even met him. Have you read about how people who have once been dead (and brought back) say that they didn't want to come back? that there was so much light and love that they really wanted to go to this place? I'm pretty sure that that is where Pablo is right now, watching you tour Europe.

Enjoy Italia!

Jules said...

Thinking of you all and Pablo everyday.

LYNN said...

Your post was so eloquent, profound, and so deeply, deeply moving. The words swam in front of me - so many tears. I wish I could write something that would be of comfort but words don't come easy now...
Will be thinking of you roaming the narrow streets of Venice together, taking comfort and gathering strength from one another. Take it all in, let everything wash over you because Pablo is everywhere. He is with you.
xo Lynn

Lesley said...

Hi you all,
Just want to say that we are thinking of you every day,thinking of Pablo, keeping up with you on the blog. Sending love from Lake Michigan.
xo Lesley & Bernie

Dawn said...

Continuing to send all my love and thoughts to each of you every day.

Anonymous said...

Jeff-I have been following your journey since I discovered (or was guided to) PABLOg on June 30th, the day of Pablo's memorial. Your words have taken my breath away with their rawness, stripped bare honesty and emotion. As a parent, my heart has broken for you so many times over this past month as you have shared your beautiful boy, Pablo with all of us. Not a day has gone by that I haven't thought of you, Pablo, JoAnn and Grady. I am amazed that I feel such a connection to people that I have never met--that is a testament to your powerful ability to put into words the joy, heartbreak,and sorrow we face in life–that connect us all regardless of who we are, what we do, where we live. You also inspire us to have courage and hope even in the midst of our greatest despair.