Saturday, August 22, 2009

Seven Weeks WIthout Pablo

Late last night, Fred found this shot of his friend Pablo in his laptop.

This boy, he came into our lives at the end of a nine month long pregnancy. Came flying out into the world. This boy, he ran and ran and ran. He talked and talked and talked. He honed his skill of balance, of running, of holding on, of pirate talk, of swordplay, of never letting on that he was on a sinking ship. Seven Saturdays ago, Pablo's ship did sink. If we can call his physical body his ship, it sank. At the end of one helluva fight with an unspeakably unfair foe, Pablo opened his eyes two final times, screaming 'SAY SOMETHING!' and 'I WANT MOMMY!' and then stopped breathing. Just like that. I wish I had too. Jo Ann wishes she had too.

We spent as many hours with his still body as we thought appropriate. When the white van came to take him away to the cemetery gates, I picked him up in my arms. With his mommy and his brother as my guides, as his guards, we ascended the stairs where Pablo learned to sail + fly + jump + thump his body every which way. We took the 17 steps—counted countless times by Pablo—to the top and made our way outside. Our family, our complete entire family, one last time.

If you were the projectionist in my head, you'd have seen that reel over and over and over and over since Saturday June 27 2009. Over and over and over and over. And over. At the end of each reel, you'd hear my anguished wonder: how could you let him go? How the F*** could you let him go? The white van. Wrapped in his favorite blanket. The gurney. The nice man and his heartfelt condolences. The toe tag. My little boy's sweet, still body. His face. His eyebrows. His hair. Trying to come back, but too late. Sean standing guard in the street. Peter protecting and directing us, specifying our wishes to the man in the van.

If you were the projectionist in my head, you'd have seen that there was a second gurney in the van. It didn't have anyone's name on it. I could have laid down on it. I could have gone too.

¶ Coming home from the coffee shop this morning, I pulled up in front of our temporary residence, the home of our next door neighbors James and Vanessa. Got out of the car. Stopped. Didn't want to. Didn't plan to. There I was, staring at Jo Ann's car in front of our home. 'That's about where the white van was,' I thought to myself. 'That's where we gave Pablo away.' As I turned away and made for J+V's side door a rush of thoughts came over me. One of them: How could I give away my son's body? Another: What if someone had been walking by when we brought him outside? And another: What is life? What is body? What are we? Our laughter? Our footsteps? Our stillness? Our love?

We are definitely our love. We are that most precious emotion which is best experienced when given away.

What Jo Ann and Grady and I miss the most about Pablo—and sometimes what we can't remember the most about him—is his laughter, the way he held us, the way we kissed him, the physical ways in which we expressed our love and to-the-death-devotion. And his love for us.

Love. There it is.

There it is.

To the death.
Til the day you die.

Draw a line to each of those.

Now write the letters P - A - B - L - O.

Connect the three lines with his name.

I do this a hundred times a day with dozens of words, phrases, cliches, gilded emotional mementos.

Words. I ask them what they mean. I demand that they sit up straight and say what they mean. I demand that they do a better job meaning what they say. All these lazy words hanging around in our heads, in our lives, in the air between us. Pablo's absence is becoming a filter that I put everything through. Is it fair? Who knows. Am I going to stop? No. Nobody will ask me to stop. I will not stop if they ask.

A long time ago, I told you I don't want to be in a world that doesn't include Pablo. I was scared when I wrote that. Scared because we'd just learned of the recurrence of Pablo's cancer. It was Tuesday April 21. I was scared. So scared, I titled the post 'Shell Shocked.' The most honest words I could communicate were: I do not want to be in a world that doesn't include Pablo. My best friend was a six-year-old boy. I'd waited my whole life for him. I'd waited 31 years to meet my best friend. I was patient. I was ready to let go of the old and let in the new. I was ready to be a papa on June 21 2003. Scared? Yes, in a different sort of way. When I wrote the 'world' statement, Pablo was in the same home as me. He may have been snuggled next to me. Can't recall. But the thought of Pablo being gone, deceased, dead, was then as far from our reality as his memory is now.

A key motivator for my writing on the Pablog is to share with you my experience. Good, bad, whatever. Let me tell you something that's been eating at me. Something that's been eating at me because I've been swallowing it down, thinking you'll freak out if I share it. The cruel reality—well, one of them—of losing Pablo is this: time is dulling the sharp edges of my Pablo memories. Sometimes, when I search for 'Pablo+laughter' in my mental search engine, I come up blank. Other times, all I can recall is a time I made a mistake with him, spoke to him too sharply, apologized while he was crying under the weight of hurt feelings. The hunger for immediate connection with my son has me drifting and sifting through iPhoto at all hours. In my office on the giant iMac. At home on my laptop, or, for a different collection of pics, Jo Ann's laptop. On the few iPods in our home—all of which have random clusters of photo memories stashed in their caches.

For weeks, a Smiths lyric has been banging around in my mind. It's from the song 'Cemetery Gates.' Have I already written this? Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before. If not here's the lyric in reference: 'All those people, all those lives where are they now? With loves, and hates and passions just like mine. They were born and then they lived and then they died. Seems so unfair. I want to cry.' Morrissey's lyric also takes a stand in favor of Oscar Wilde and kicks Keats and Yeats—here comes one of Pablo's favorite phrases—right in the nuts. I'd always dreamed of instilling this kind of fight-to-the-finish literary snobbery in Pablo. As that song has danced through my mind in Venice, Florence, Paris, Rome and Wolfeboro, that's the part that drops an anchor in my heart, every time. The part I wanted to teach my son. The part about taking a stand, finding passion, kicking against the pricks.

¶ How many times did Pablo climb into a vehicle at the curb in front of our house? How many times, at first, did we carry the baby Pablo, ever carefully, and place him in his car seat? How many times did Pablo look up at a car and wish for the day he'd have the skill + strength + parental nod to climb alone? How many times did Pablo dream of making his next big step, to the front seat? Or to the driver's seat? I have wondered over and over in the past seven weeks, do your foreshadowing dreams begin to end as you near death?

Did he get a message? Did he get a sign? Is there a feeling 24 hours before you die—an indication so clear it smacks calm into the recipient? Not a secret the recipient wants to hide away, but a stillness, a self respect higher than any other. 'I'm getting off at the next stop,' you might say to yourself as you narrate the fleeting ticks and falling tocks of your final day. 'I'm getting off at the next stop,' you might say to yourself. 'Funny how everything falls away. Funny how it feels OK.'

We have been living since Wednesday at the home of our next door neighbors, James and Vanessa. I wake up six, seven times a night and look at our house from their bed. In my sleepy state, I have a gauzy thought, 'There's our house. I wonder if Pablo will come back today.' We went across the globe to get a far perspective. In most respects it worked. Coming home was treacherous. Walking back into our home, our hearts eked out pains we'd never known.

On Tuesday, when the exterminator informed us we had to move out of our home, the place where we lived with Pablo, we felt violated. A few days on, I am of a different mind about it. To see our home from 30 yards, to hear the noises of the neighborhood from a slightly different locale, to see the sights of our hood from our neighbor's windows is invigorating. To see the non-Pablo-ness of it all the way James and Vanessa might. Hard to explain. I'm hardly explaining it. Just feels different. Like it had to be. Like it is part of our path.

The week seven update boils down to this: We imagine that Pablo is around us, watching over us, observing us. In our week next door, we're sort of doing the same thing: outside looking in. Getting an unexpected perspective. Painful and odd. But part of the path.


Jen Berry said...

i'm not sure what to say. i find the pouring of your heart to be so beautiful, but bittersweet. i can't even imagine. your words help me imagine, but i know they are nothing like knowing, really knowing what you are experiencing. when i hear a child's laughter i now think of pablo.

Anonymous said...

I think of Pablo every day. We are still here, Jeff.

I wish and pray for any words to heal your family, for the perfect book, song, moment, sentence to make things just the tiniest bit easier.

I have none. I have nothing but my prayers and thoughts of your family.

You are not alone. We have not forgotten. Pablo is very much alive and well in my heart and mind.
Everytime I hear Life on Mars, watch the puppies jump and bark at a butterfly, every bird, every child's laugh makes me think of Pablo. If a person can live on through memories, Pablo's having one hell of an afterlife.

We love you :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry jeff.I don't even know you but I read this blog ever day and this post just made me cry. I cannot imagine what you go through and there are no words really, so all I'd love to do is give you a huge hug.

You'll be together again one day and everything will be good.

Maren from Germany

Ernest said...

Beautiful. I read this and cry as I can't even begin to fathom your pain. What a gift he was and will always be. A blessing so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Heather said...

Pablo is ALL around you.He is IN you.He IS you.In every move you make,in every thought you take,he lives and breathes and dwells inside of you all.Peace,love and strength to you,my sweet family, as you navigate both your painful and joyfilled moments.

*our little guys have that very same puzzle... I will never look at or see another pirate object or skull and crossbones with the same eyes has I previously have ... instead I see them through the eyes of your beautiful boy.always will.

Anonymous said...

Man, there's so much I want to say. First of which is - Thank you. Thank you for having the courage to share the rawness and realness with us. I know this is gonna sound crazy, but I find it funny that you had "bed bugs." Bed bugs seems to be a funny kid phrase or something I would say to my kids, like "goodnight and don't let the bed bugs bite." Now you are, as you say "on the outside looking in, like its part of the path you were supposed to go on.” I find myself wondering if Pablo has his hand in all of it, somehow trying to help you along while leaving a message here and there. I saw the picture of the King Tut and then you saying, that was one of the last toys Pablo wanted; and the lion with wings and he called himself "Lion Boy". I don't know, are they all messages/signs? I want to share a story with you, it kind of goes along with my thoughts on this. One of my best girlfriends recently lost her older brother to a heart attack. She's hurting, but doing okay. Just the other day, some Mom's were having a play date and all the kids were swimming and having a good time, while the Mom's were visiting. All of the sudden my friend’s 10 yr old son came crashing through a giant (5ft. x 8ft.) glass door/wall from inside the house, landing on the patio outside. Glass was everywhere. Sharp, large dagger like pieces of glass; thousands of sharp deadly pieces of glass. He walked away with 3 stitches, when it could have been so, so much worse. We all feel like we witnessed a miracle and wondered if Mario (my friend’s deceased brother) had a hand in that miracle. I find myself struggling and thinking about the fact that nobody knows why things happen the way they do. I guess we just have to make our own way through life, the best way we can and find comfort from all the harsh, harsh realties life throws at us. Sharing love is one hellava start!!!! I love you guys and hope that peace and light guides you through these very rough times. Lisa Hickey

Anonymous said...

I am crying as I read this. It reminds me of my husband carrying our daughter out of the house for the last time. I will never forget the way her long, dark hair whished across the air. I will never forget the noise that emanated from him after he had deposited her body in the van and come back inside. It was the noise of an injured animal, something from the primal depths. I can't imagine ever being able to think of these things without the pain and the tears, even when many moons and tides have been placed between the memories and the event itself. I am so, so, so, sorry for your loss.

Nancy said...

Your post took my breath away. I wish I had some words that would make a difference but I do not. I come each day just to see Pablo's sweet face. I pray for easier days ahead for your family. Please know how many people think of you daily and wish they could help in some way!

MKPatrick said...

Please know that I am here, reading your words and feelings as I'm sure many, many others are. By your writing and our reading, perhaps we can each help dissolve a bit of your grief.
Pablo is here. He's with you always, in your hearts and in your minds. Pure love.
Love & Light,
Mary Kay

Kat said...

We ache for you. We hurt for you. We are praying....

Samantha said...

I feel like i can almost feel your pain, literally... your words, thoughts and writing is so beautiful and true. Saying sorry doesn't mean a thing... he should be here with you, damn it! I HATE cancer...

Melissa Seibold said...

The feelings and emotions you speak are stunning. I feel odd reading and imaging and perhaps understanding what the "fade" must feel like. . . It is odd. Thanks for sharing with us all Jeff.

With love and caring,
Melissa in Nevada City, CA

Anonymous said...

Jeff-I have spent the last half hour staring at a blank screen, trying in vain to compose a meaninful reply to your heartbreaking "Seven Weeks Without Pablo" post. I just want you to know that in my 54 years of life, I have never read anything that has left me so speechless and moved to the core of my being.

You are right about love--it is the one true thing. How blessed Pablo is that you are and always will be his beloved Papa.

Stephanie said...

I've never posted on the Pablog before, even though I've been a follower for some time.
I have to say following the journey hasn't been easy, and he wasn't even my child, well, not really. You tune in and read the daily lives and you begin to feel connected. Like somehow these people are an extension of family.
Then the journey comes to an end, or so you think, and still you keep coming back.

It hurts to read it.
It makes my throat burn, the lump that makes camp there every time I settle in to read the days post.

But somehow I can't stop.

Maybe because the journey really isn't over, it's just taken on a new shape.


Or maybe it's because every time I read about how much it hurts to miss him, I hold on to my own a little bit tighter.

Maybe it's just because somewhere along the posts and pictures he became a part of me too.

Whatever it is, I don't expect that coming back is going to get any easier any time soon. How could it?

But come back I will. Not just because I want to. But because there's a part of me that needs it as much as you do.

It's funny how one small voice can be heard so far away.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of Pablo always. Today I passed a pirate flag high on a pole on a quiet canyon residential street. The air was hot and still. The flag was waving at me. I winked back.

Unknown said...

Always sending love, always in my heart

jody said...

we are here.
we can't really help but we are here.
life is full of so much joy and so much pain.
you are a powerful man with a beautiful family.
keep writing.
there are so many of us out here that you have touched.
some of us have already lost children.
some of us have "medically fragile" children.
some of us have healthy children.
we are here listening to you and holding you and your family in our hearts.

Jen said...

Jeff -

Thank you for keeping your heart open to us. For those of us who have experienced death and grief - your words make us feel human and normal. I have not lost a child which I know is the most painful loss anyone can experience - but I have lost many many important people in the past few years. Lots and lots of death. I remember soon after my Mom died I was flying home and picked up a book in the airport to read as a distraction more than anything else. The book was by Anderson Cooper and in writing about his relationship to death he helped me identify a few things that I could relate to as I was processing my own grief. He wrote passages about the brother he lost to suicide and the father who died when he was young to heart issues. He described dreaming about them being there with him as alive as ever. He described trying to remember the touch of his father's hand. I remember working out in the gym months after my Mom died and I was exhausted and ready to quit. I was telling myself as I ran on the treadmill that if I could get to the goal distance in my run that my Mom would be alive again. I pushed and pushed and pushed myself. I thought it was real and then when I stopped and I just burst into tears. All kinds of things trigger and fire at you. Not enough people talk about the feelings you are having. The pain is so hard to admit. I did not want to scare people away and have them think I was always sad. I am sending you a hug Jeff. I admire your honesty and your incredible soul.

Love Jen R. NYC

jess said...

I read this post last night, and then again this morning. I reflected on it all day...what to say...there really are no words.

Pablo sounds awesome. He should be here with you. I am so very sorry.

Your writing is amazing. Your honestly will help others, there is dignity in that.

This world is imperfect. I believe these bodies are temporary.
Pablo is always only one breath away from you.

Mary A., NOLA said...

Dear Jeff, JoAnn & Grady -

I know there are no words to comfort and console you. I remember grief and it is awful. I remember panicking because I could not remember my parents voices or what they looked like. I know now that it was my pain that was getting in the way of wonderful memories. The pain never really goes away, but the beautiful memories shine brighter with time!

I admire your family for sharing Pablo with the world. It would have been so much easier to hide away, but you didn't. I don't know one person who hasn't been moved by the blog - by Pablo. I've shared it with everyone I know! I don't know one parent who hasn't seen their child in an entirely new light because of Pablo!

Keep feeling, keep sharing, keep loving, keep writing. . . Pablo's counting on you all to carry on for him! Pablo made a profound impact on this world - this world will never be "without" Pablo.

With love,

chad said...

my heart aches for your family and I hope your memories of Pablo will forever remain vivid in your minds. You'll remember later on that same album the phrase "there's a light and it never goes out". Pablo's light will never go out as his influence and spirit lives on. I know it doesn't make it easier, but I hope that knowledge will give your family strength.