Pablo and his plate at Thanksgiving dinner 2008
Good morning. It's been a long time. We turned the Pablog into a television station for the past seven weeks. It was fun to speak and not spell all my thoughts and feelings. Mostly because I knew the writing would recommence right about now. So, here I am, sitting in the living room, where I was a year ago on this day, with my laptop in my lap. A year ago, the early morning sounds of Pablo filled the air: his footsteps as he ran up the stairs to find me, his voice speaking to me, the escalating melody sound the television makes as it fires up, and, of course, the start of an episode of 'Sponge Bob' and the inevitable request from the TV room, 'Papa, I'm hunnnnnnnnngryyyyyyy!'
Today, is more than a year later. Today is the day when it's clear nothing will never be the same. I knew that when I went to sleep last night, and each night for the prior five months. This morning, I sit here and scroll through iPhoto and search for the photos of last year's Thanksgiving—the one with just the four of us and perhaps Polly. There are only a few pictures with people; Grady and Pablo commandeered the camera that day and snapped shots of food and other inanimate objects. I have come across those images a thousand times in the past 365 days. Today, when I want to find them, it seems impossible, so I let it go. I stop searching. Thanksgiving 2008 is there, I know it, and it will be there forever. Whatever forever means.
Last night after dinner, after being away from my beloved, ill-lit workshop for nearly two months, I was prepping my bike for today's ride. While I was away Jo Ann cleaned out the garage—a Herculean task for sure—so it was more than my long absence that had me feeling out of place in the workshop. After having my friend Chad Contreras, our mechanic on Pablove Across America, drive behind us for six weeks with a car full of fresh wheels and food and bottles, I was begrudgingly searching in the half-dark for the little bag that holds a spare inner tube, a couple CO2 cartridge and tire—the supplies needed to fix a flat. I miss Chad and everyone who worked with us on Pablove Across America. I miss Chad cracking jokes into the CB radio in my ear, and calling out each car or double semi truck that was approaching from the rear. And, of course, I miss Chad expertly replacing a punctured tire with an entirely new wheel as I stood there eating or wiping my nose. I got only five flats in over 3,400 miles, by the way. Mostly, I miss the drive and ambition of being on the road with a team of people, grinding down the miles each day in service of the Pablove purpose.
Finally, I found the little black bag and affixed it to the saddle on my bike. In the half-dark, I looked at the shelf above my fire engine red workbench. Something jumped out at me. It was a clear plastic package, the kind that is molded to whatever its contents are, and requires industrial scissors to open. I instantly knew what the package was and walked over to pick it up. The first thing I noticed was the receipt stuffed inside the package. The second thing that popped into my head was, 'Where has this thing been all this time?'
The receipt told me that I'd bought this item at 10:13 a.m. on Wednesday June 24 2009. It also told me that I had bought a clear plastic toy replica of a Colt handgun. Tears poured from my eyes. My gut seized up as it always does when I weep; air goes out but does not come back in. What I was holding in my hands was the package for the last gift I ever bought Pablo. I have no idea how it ended up on that shelf or why I saw it last night and not on any other night. I do know that I drove Grady to school for 8 a.m. on June 24. I do know that I rode my bike in the mountains for two hours immediately after. I do know I went to Sport Chalet with the express purpose of buying a toy gun for Pablo. And I do know that I cut the package open in the garage so I could hand him only the gun; the plastic BBs the gun was capable of shooting was not something we wanted to indoctrinate Pablo into. We were into Pablo shooting imaginary bullets, and so was he.
After hacking the package open in the garage, I shut the door and came in the house. The playful screams and hollers of two young boys filled the air. Pablo and his friend Mercer were tearing it up. I was happy as I walked in the door. Any time Pablo's play sounds filled our home was a good time. It meant he was feeling good. It meant his little boy-ness was winning. We loved that.
'Paaaaaabloooo!' I screamed, trying to get my voice into their mix. I called out for him a couple times. He ran over. 'I have a gift for you, sweetie.'
'OK, Papa,' he said. I remember this exchange as if it had just happened. 'What is it?'
From behind my back, I produced a clear plastic Colt gun. He grabbed it, pulled the trigger and turned toward Mercer. His face dropped. He pulled the trigger again. 'Papa, it doesn't make any noise.' He wanted the trigger to make a clicking sound, like his favorite six shooter that had broken the day before. I assured him the Colt was a cool gun as he and Mercer picked up the game they'd been playing. I knew he was disappointed. And I knew I'd get him a clicking gun the next day.
When I got home at 5 p.m. that day, Jo Ann told me Pablo was running a mild fever. I sat down next to him on the sofa. He showed me the promotional insert from the Play Mobil toy he'd just picked up on Larchmont. He pointed to the Sphinx image on the sheet. 'Papa, this is the one I want next.'
Within minutes we were rushing to CHLA. Within two hours, it would be clear to me that 'Papa, this is the one I want next' is the last thing Pablo would ever say to me.
We miss Pablo so much it makes the air go out of our lungs and the sound go out of our ears. We talk about him constantly. We search for meaning in everything as we reach toward acceptance. I learned acceptance from my son, and I will keep trudging toward acceptance for each day that I live. When I can no longer live, I suppose I will accept that too.