Friday, August 14, 2009

Pictures + Books

We talk about Pablo. We feel him with us, and imagine what he might be doing if he were physically still here. Yesterday, a bunch of us were standing somewhere—I can't recall where—and I looked to my right, angled my head to Pablo's height, and saw him standing with us. More than that, I felt him there. There was a space right there beside me—a Pablo-sized space that was not populated by any physical, living person.

You know, we all have energy. That's why we can sense someone walking up behind us. That's why we can sense the movements of others in our midst. I felt that energy yesterday. Didn't say a word about it. I've been swallowing it down a lot lately. Don't like it, but it's happening. This happened when Scott passed away. My mind started to tell me that people didn't want to hear about it anymore. The difference with our grieving of Pablo is that we are all mourning at the same time. I can't say we are all mourning Pablo together. The fact is, the way these things really work is I am my own grief pod, Jo Ann is her own grief pod, as is Grady, Jimmy, Marissa, Peter, Brie, and so on.... It's hard to know when is a good time for the person next to you at the table. At least it is for me. I feel like a burden to everyone when it comes to my grief. I recognize this as false evidence appearing real. Of course I do. But it's Class A false stuff. When I'm under the influence of my own mind, the shades are drawn and nailed to the sills.

The other day, sitting in the living room with the phone up to my ear and the laptop in my lap, I was on a conference call with Matt and Acacia at Dangerbird. We were talking about the Pablove Across America (PAA) cross-country ride. As they were telling me things and asking me things, I was looking through iPhoto to find four photos of Pablo and our family. It was D-day for me to find the best pics for the graphic that'll go on the top tube of my bikes for the PAA ride. I've been talking to Bob Thomson, the art director for PAA bike sponsor Felt Bikes, about how nice it'd be to have my family with me on the bike, to keep the purpose of what we are doing close at hand. Bob has created custom-skinned Pablove bikes for Coach Rick and I (will post the graphics when we announce the ride), and these family photos are meant to be the final bit on my bikes. As the conference call ended, I found myself scrolling through Pablo's life in pictures, as I have a million times since Pablo's passing six weeks ago. As we did with Pablo 10 million times during his life. Our family lived the memories in our pics and vids, and we've enjoyed reliving them countless times thanks to iPhoto.

Now that Pablo's gone, scrolling through the images brings smiles and tears. The other day, as I was sitting alone in the living room, it was all tears. A waterfall. Jo Ann saw me crying and came to console me. Peter heard me crying and came out from his bedroom to console me. I felt like a burden and went inside myself. I hate that I did that. But I did. In that moment, it was clear that I am in a deep wilderness with a busted compass, a couple ounces of water and a stitch in my gut. It was also clear that my way out is to stop isolating, stay connected to the people who love me, so they can love me, and so I can love them back. We're all hurting. Not just me.

One way I understand life is by reading. I learn things about life from reading. And, most important for a spazoid like me, I slow down and sit in a chair when doing it.

I am reading an historical book called 'Eiffel's Tower' by Jill Jonnes. Never heard of her or her book until I saw it on the shelf at the little bookshop in town. The cover reminded me of 'The Devil In The White City' by Erik Larsen. That was a fave of Scott and Peter and I. It's about the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition (also known as the Worlds Fair), a serial killer, the advent of Pullman Cars, the Ferris Wheel and the giant egos, guts and mustaches of Victorian architects and businessmen with a heavy focus on the pre-Colgate dental pain of visionary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

Jonnes' Eiffel book couldn't have come at a better time. I needed a book to carry me through the balance of August—a literary oar to plunk into the water whenever I need to sit alone and row myself to calm or to some aloneness or to sleep. Reading about the exploits of arrogant Frenchmen in post-Napoleonic Paris is perfect for me: it is not sad, it is not somber; it is an appropriate and pleasant diversion from the thick air I travel in these days.

It's also a gear shift from the other books I've been reading lately. When Pablo passed away, I went to Skylight Books in Los Feliz and sought out every must-read book on grief. Half of them were sold out, and most of the others were not for me. There was one magic book that was in stock—something Shirley recommended—that I've just finished: C.S. Lewis' raw and real '
A Grief Observed.' It's short, and I could have devoured it in a couple sittings. Instead, I rationed the thin book, reading a few pages on train rides in Italy, a couple pages before bed. I didn't know much about Lewis, except that he wrote the Chroni-WHAT?-cles of Narnia.

It wasn't just Narnia that Lewis chronicled. His portrait of the terrain and the terror of the ones left behind when someone dies is the best piece of writing I've found to help me through this time. Partly because he wasn't writing a book when he wrote this stuff—it's his journals from his own grief cycle around his wife's death from cancer—he repeatedly states his position, then contemplates the opposite point of view. He questions everything, then questions the inquisition. He is sad (see above). He is crazy with guilt (see above). He feels like a man alone although he knows he's just avoiding the loving hands of those around him (see above). He comes to a resolve with his sorrow, deciding that a free trade in the currency of memories of his wife—not the stuffing down of his memories—is the way to his harmony with her death, and, indeed, the best way to let her soul be free in its new place. Lewis doesn't beat himself up for his utter confusion about, well, everything. He sits in the mess of it all. He simply holds it in his gaze and spits out what he can't endure, the whole while writing the uppercase and lowercase details without judgement. Not easy stuff. But it's helped me immensely.

Today we are taking our camera out on the boat. I promise you a long series of photos of this heavenly lake.

10 comments:

Puanani said...

Sending strength and deep love your way...

Jenny said...

Jeff,

As difficult as it is to read about your grief, I keep coming back to read your blog, because it's a reminder of how fragile and complex we all are, and of how each day is to be relished and observed for it's significance and beauty. Thank you for continuing to write through your grief, and understand that through your ability to write with open honesty, you are never alone in your pain.

Melanie said...

"When I'm under the influence of my own mind, the shades are drawn and nailed to the sills."
thank you for writing that. my brain reached out and grabbed it and is hanging on - i often need other people to put into words how i feel sometimes.
and that's it.
thank you for your writing and soul-sharing. i check your blog everyday and for the past few weeks i think of Pablo every time i see a butterfly.
it's a beautiful thing to remember that i'm a part of something much bigger...
i think that pablo is a beautiful spirit in the universe.
melanie

Miss Becky said...

your words are beautiful. have a beautiful day

Tish said...

What a great post; you are not a burden, but rather a blessing. We love you.

Stephanie A. Yates said...

For what it's worth, I think you're doing a fine, fine job of writing about loss and love and grief. C.S. Lewis has nothing on you. As a virtual stranger who's drawn to the poignancy and poetry and rawness and truth of your blog, I continue to be impressed by your introspection and resilience. You probably don't feel resilient, but you are bathing and smiling and honoring your son by living life. Some can't manage even that much. I tuck away tidbits from your observations and confessions, in a special mental place I'd like to think I'll never visit, but pragmatism tells me of course I one day will. When the death of a loved one slams into my life, Pablo's lessons will be there.

Lisa Hickey said...

Keep writing and we will keep reading. You have a gift and through that gift, I believe, you can find healing and also help others to heal. Pablo's journey is not over. It lives on here and in the Pablove Foundation. He is at the center of that and all the work that remains to be done, in his honor. I know he is right next to you, in the spot that you described. He is there and he is smiling and still very much part of your family and your life. Sending love and prayers of healing and peace for all of you.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should read: Nicholas Wolterstorff's Lamend for a son.

love and light!

nina

Anonymous said...

PS:
I don't know if you've heard of it yet, but 'When bad things happen to good people' by Harold Kushner is also very good. His son had a fatal illness...

Love!!

n

Jen Berry said...

much needed inspiration for the day