Monday, September 2, 2013


Jason died in June. I’d been waiting for school to end so I could give him my full attention, as I knew things were getting more serious. When school is over, I told myself, I’ll send him the best care package ever. With a beautiful letter and photocopies of all the old Planet X cartoons and old photos and lots of good stuff. But then it became clear that he wouldn’t hang on even until then. I poured my heart out in writing and asked our friends back in New York to read it to him.

On the first day of summer vacation, it started raining again. Mr. Black left for a business trip. The kids were watching Adventure Time. I checked my e-mail. And I learned that our Jason had died that morning, peacefully and in accordance with his wishes, surrounded by loved ones.

And so it goes.

The summer rain was relentless and cold. I laid around in bed and went digging through my old notebooks looking for him – notes he’d written to me in class, hilarious quotes of his I may have jotted down. I kind of OD’d on it…all those memories, tangled up like necklaces in a drawer. It wasn’t long before I was missing and yearning for everything. Those people, that time, that place…and the “me” that loved them all so much and then, in bitterness and sheer embarrassment, pushed them all away.

I’d been living in Seattle for about a year when Jason had called me out of the blue. He was HERE! In SEATTLE! RIGHT NOW! When did I want to get together?

All I felt was annoyed. They always did stuff like this, those long lost friends of mine. Long periods of silence, unreturned calls, then just drop in with no plans or consideration for the fact that maybe I might be doing something other than hoping they’d call. So I said no, sorry. As it was, I was heading out on a date with Mr. Black. And I wanted so much to finally, finally be too cool to care that they were too cool to care.

As if it was somehow self-respecting to push away a friend like that. As if I could teach any of them anything or repair any old wounds with that move. As if it were actually possible to “move on,” snap your fingers and just not care anymore.

Losing Jason made me realize that I do care. About all of it. All of them. And apparently an awesome life 20 years later isn’t enough to cancel out these feelings entirely. I care because I care. They were some of my best friends. We thought we understood each other so well. We made each other laugh endlessly. We lit each other up. You can’t just forget that, no matter what happens.

But caring doesn’t necessarily restore anything. It’s not like the old rom-coms where all it takes is a well-spoken “I love you” and the band’s back together again and some dude’s running through an airport to win you back. When you care, that’s about you. Not them.

So you care. So, great. So, sit with it.

A week went by. The rain stopped. I got up.

I had tests to study for. I had kids to take to swimming lessons. I had new kittens to find. There would simply have to be new kittens. (My dear, sweet little Mia died back in March after a long battle with kidney disease.)

The grieving wasn’t over. But it wasn’t solid, either. There was nothing to say, no closure to impose; just feelings to feel. And those feelings changed from one moment to the next.

I absolutely love what my life has become. But I can no longer see it as this linear path with college in the distant past and my grown-up Seattle life as the only thing in front of me. All my old “lives” mingle and flow together, all for one and one for all. And everyone is still very much with me. They always have been. And nothing is truly over.

I went to our old college town for the memorial service and there it all was: The campus with its low stone wall where we’d sit and give the peace sign to passing motorists. The old A&P, which is now a Whole Foods. That cute boy who was my first college crush, now a middle-aged parent like myself, sitting with me on the patio sharing blueberries and talking about those first insane weeks of school with such simple, sober perspective.

And that fancy hotel where some of us worked and where visiting parents would take us out for lovely brunches…well, now we’re leaving our rooms and taking the elevator down to the main floor to honor and celebrate the life of our dear friend Jason. Here we all are. Older, wiser, and not all tangled up in each other’s drama anymore, but so very us, forever and always.

We told his stories. Made speeches and read poetry. Played his music. (There was that voice again. His voice.) And in honoring and celebrating Jason’s memory, we honored and celebrated our own memories, too. No more dismissing it as meaningless adolescent drama / stupidity / naivety / grandiosity / whatever. We were here. This mattered. Attention: paid.

And then…

Back to Seattle. Back to school, where there is a new job with the same wonderful teacher I worked for last year, and a classroom to get ready for our new students. Back home, to my children and husband and new kittens. Back home to finish out a beautiful summer. And to start again, with all the good and the bad and the old and the new inextricably, lovingly, hopelessly tangled.


Observations of a Crazy World said...

I am touched by your blog. It is often funny how things happen the way they do. I have been following your blog for awhile - but haven't really had time to catch up on my reading until this morning.

A week ago I lost a friend to suicide - a friend that I too had let slip through the cracks of life (family, work, etc.). Although I was very angry with him for his choice, once the grieving started it was hard to stop.

But then the gang was together again. Telling stories, sharing life and laughing. I miss him very much but it was a touch point to remember to take the time, to make the time. To not only honor old memories, but make some new ones as well.

I am sorry for your loss.

Trisha said...

Your way with words is so profound. Reading things like this is hard for me, because it triggers my own flood of memories and losses, but your power in a few sentences is something I had to mention.

Great post.

guest said...

Hi there,

I found your blog after following a link from a Wallyhood discussion thread. Last night I spent quite a long time reading all your posts about your son, who sounds quite a bit like my own troubled boy. He just started kindergarten last month (language immersion - gah!!), and things are not going well. I am devastated and not coping very well. Reading your blog last night, I cried and cried, mostly with relief to know that someone has gone through this before. ...Someone who has probably stood in line behind me at Irwins more than once. It seems like everyone I know has kids who love school and are doing beautifully. Yesterday I dropped my son off in his classroom after a doctor's appointment, and the sight of 27 children sitting in perfect formation on the rug -- legs crossed, hands folded neatly and still in laps, eyes focused on the teacher -- felt like a punch to the stomach.

Reading your stories helped me realize that I desperately need to find a support system, before I self-destruct. Do you have a recommendations for moms groups open to people struggling with behavioral problems? My partner and I have been blind-sided by all of this because our kid has been a very easy and sweet kid most of his life, until he started acting out at preschool a few months ago. Boredom, the teachers claimed, so we swept it under the rug and held our breath at the start of kindergarten. Now that it's clear that we have a real problem, we are reeling. My partner copes by shutting down a bit -- when he comes home from a stressful day at work, he doesn't want to hear about our son's problems of the day or hash out theories with me. Do you have any recommendations?

I'll stop here because I don't know if this message will get to you and it makes me sad just to talk about all this... thank you.

Floor Pie said...

Hi "guest,"
Thank you so much for getting in touch with me. Sending you a virtual high five right now.

You are NOT alone! I don't know of any organized parents' groups other than Seattle's Special Education PTSA and SEAAC (another SpEd rights group whose full name escapes me at the moment). But parents like us are out there, and those organizations are a good place to start meeting them.

I highly recommend checking out the book Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid! and the Facebook group of the same name. Great community there.

Hang in there. It really, truly does get better!

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