Category Archives: Family

Damn, Grandma? Damn?

Note: I originally wrote this eulogy for my grandmother and posted it last year, but when I overhauled my site, it was the one post to have vanished. I’ve saved it until now to republish on what would have been her 83rd birthday.

Thinking back to that service, and my delivery of the following, I’m kind of amazed that I made it all the way through.


I can’t believe that it’s been just three and a half months since I saw my grandmother. I was lucky enough to steal some time away from work to be able to come up for what would turn out to be my final Christmas with her. I always found a reason to let life get in the way, and I never came back up to visit as often as I’d like. It’s funny, but during these past twelve months, I’ve flown back up here more than I had in the past twelve years. Part of that was due to the fact that when my great-grandmother died, I knew that I had thrown away my chance to say my last goodbyes, too worried about work, and life, and somehow being a failure in her eyes.

Sure, I’ve done better for myself since then, but when I heard that my grandfather was beginning to fade, I knew I couldn’t just hide away down in California. And when he died, I knew that it wouldn’t be long until I was back up here to say farewell to my grandmother.

I’m sorry. This is harder than I expected. You see, my son came up with me this time, and this is his first real experience with death, the first time he has been exposed to the concept of a bittersweet celebration of a life well-lived. He is lucky to have spent as much time as he did with both of his great-grandparents, and I guess what I’m about to say, the stories I’m about to tell, are as much for him to learn a little more about them as they are for me to pay my respects.

The hardest part is knowing where to start. There are so very many things which I’d like to share with you, but right now they’re just a jumble in my head; lodged behind this lump in my throat.

Perhaps I should begin with how she taught me (quite inadvertently, I’m sure she’d insist I clearly mention) my very first four-letter word. That sort of thing tends to happen when a car door swings shut with only your leg betwixt it and its final destination. Later on, in an outing with my Grandfather, I used it in perfect context, to the effect of nearly causing him to have an accident (of either variety). Since then, I’ve been extremely cautious in my usage of… colorful metaphors while traveling by automobile.

In so many ways, I’ve found that I am like my Grandmother (and not just in my reaction to vehicular agony). She was the standard which I’d found I’d set for myself, when that sort of thing began to matter. But really, I think that the biggest impression she made on me was in treating me like a person when others could only see the symptoms of adolescence. It’s quite simple to dismiss someone when you know better, but it takes integrity and valor to see them as a human being- moreso when that human being is an abrasive, caustic malcontent. She had my back when no one else did, even when I walked on painful and lonely roads, beset on either side by buffalo too numerous to mention.

That’s not to say she didn’t speak her mind. Sure, she had my back, but she never hesitated to tell me when she thought that I was in the wrong. We used to argue all the time, on all range of matters, from the mundane to monumental, relishing not in the causing of pain, but rather the gamesmanship of passionate debate. There were times we got so into it, that my mother appeared to be upon the brink of nervous breakdown. But when we’d finished, there was no bitterness or anger left remaining, just a renewed connection between the both of us, and the unspoken eagerness to do it all again sometime.

It’s funny. One of the points on which we argued most since I left home, was my choice in paramours. She never missed a chance to speak her mind on the subject of the dubious ladies who had contrived to besmirch my honor and misdirect my virtue. Until she met my wife, that is. Not once, not even once, did I hear so much as even an uncertain word against my dearest one. She loved my wife as only someone who truly understands the concept of unconditional love might. She saw, perhaps even before I, that meeting and not driving my wife away was the best thing that I’d ever managed to accomplish.

One of the hardest things for me was to watch her health decline. 26 years ago, give or take a month, she had her first heart attack. So I suppose, in a very real way, she’d been declining for a while. But these past few years managed to steal away her vitality and stamina, and our debates, once lively and verging on a yet-undiscovered full-contact sport made up of naught but words, had fallen into carefully moderated disuse. They weren’t nearly as fun as they’d been before, as she required oxygen to even cross the living room, and so we’d lob our gentle jabs at one another until we both got bored.

As you can probably infer, we didn’t have the typical familial relationship, filled with loving words and niceties. Somewhere along the way, she expressed her affection toward me by reassuring me that she could rock-a-bye me with real rocks. I never failed to retort that there was still time to push an old lady down the stairs. A few years ago, out of gift ideas, and with time running out for Christmas shopping, I ordered her some polished rocks off Amazon, with an invitation for her to give me that rock-a-bye. I’ve been told that it was one of her most treasured possessions.

I’d love to say that my grandma was a sweet and kind little old lady, full of sunshine and other assorted flavors from the Whitman’s Condolence Sampler, but I don’t want to sell her short. She was her own person: proud, and fierce, and above all loving. Besides, if I say too many purely nice things, I’m sure tonight I’ll hear the wind carrying her message past my window of, “Oh, pooh!”

(sigh)

As has been observed, my Grandmother managed to transmute the simple expulsion of carbon dioxide from her lungs into a form of punctuation. If you were to base a film franchise upon her life, and for some inexplicable reason, cast Bruce Willis as the lead, you would be treated to such cinematic gems as: Sigh Hard, Sigh Hard With a Vengeance, and Live Free or Sigh Hard. There again, she and I share a bond.

It’s funny: my mother has repeated, on numerous occasions, that were it not for the pains of childbirth, she would have been convinced that I was her mother’s child. I suppose that’s why that last bit, originally a self-deprecating observational jab at myself, works so flawlessly with her.

So I says to this guy, I says…

(chuckle)

More jokes? I can almost hear you thinking, I’m not sure if this is the time or the place for that sort of thing.

But when, then, if not in a moment of despair?

The time for grief has come and gone, and will most likely come again, striking in those unguarded moments when we think that we’re alright. We do not grieve nor weep for her, for, regardless of your views on what comes after, it is an incontrovertible certainty that she is now finally free of pain. Our tears are shed only for ourselves, because we are human, and because we so very dearly miss her. We weep not because she made us feel that way, but rather for the laughter which in us she so easily inspired, and from which we find ourselves so suddenly bereft.

Death is not something to be feared, like an arbitrary cessation of festivities, nor some sort of adversary to be outwitted ‘til the end. It’s a natural closing of the story of our lives, our hopes, our dreams, one which will be continued in the tales of our children and grandchildren and in the hearts of all who’ve loved us. Death is but a liberator from endless pain and suffering, the final rest which we have sought since we were old enough to regret all those naps not taken in our youth.

Okay.

I’d like to end this with a story from years ago, from one of the many road trips I had the pleasure of taking with my grandparents. You know, I always found it amusing that my grandfather, who worked at Boeing, preferred to get somewhere behind the wheel of a car. Maybe he knew that it wasn’t just about the destination…

We were in Oregon at the beginning of the summer, right after school had gotten out. It must have been close to a hundred degrees, even as night began to fall. We’d had a particularly trying day, the three of us, especially my grandmother and I, an occupational hazard, I suppose, of one of the travelers suffering from his particularly potent form of adolescence.

We’d pulled up to the motel in the early evening, just as the sun was beginning its descent, and my grandparents decided that what they could really use, after a day cooped up with me, was a quiet evening out. Sure, they invited me to come, as they were obligated to at least offer me some sort of sustenance, but, as our room had air conditioning and HBO, I elected to stay behind. Let’s just say that no objections were made. I did what any red-blooded American boy would do, and flipped through the channels to see what sort of life I had been missing with Basic Cable, while my grandparents had an evening of civil conversation in an environment free of rolling eyes and a constant stream of sarcasm.

It must have been a couple of hours later when they returned, because I’d managed to get bored by the offerings of even Subscription Television. From the way they… let’s say… sauntered in, I knew something was amiss.

Driven by maternal (or gran-maternal instinct, I suppose), though it could have easily been the finest example of passive aggression which I’ve been honored to have witnessed in all my many years, my grandmother decided that she’d had enough that day. She snapped her fingers toward the cot, informed me it was time for bed, and, uncertain as to the duration of my safety, I skulked my way over and sat down upon it. Another snap of her fingers, and I laid down, immediately regretting my decision.

My grandmother then began piling blanket after blanket upon me, comforters used to ironic effect, until I began to sweat uncontrollably, both from the trapped in atmosphere and body heat, though I must say that stark terror played no small part. She tucked the many layers between the mattress and the frame, informing me that I was cold, and that I needed to bundle up. Had I the presence of mind, I might have voiced a concern that, in light of this apparent cold snap, said provisions would be best utilized by the those touched not entirely lightly by the eld.

My options rapidly evaporating, much as what moisture I’d managed to conserve, I turned my head (the only part of my body which I could move) toward the other side of the motel room, to where my grandfather was seated on the bed. I could just make out his face in the reflection from the mirror which stood adjacent to the bathroom. I shot him a pleading look, to which he responded with a small shake of his head, and non-verbal “I told you so.”

My eyes screamed at him for help, but by then it was already too late. I was beginning to suffer from heat stroke, and my eyes began to close. The last thing from that evening which I can reliably remember was that look upon my Grandpa’s face, and the smell of wine upon my Grandma’s breath.

My grandmother always had my back, but she felt it necessary, at times, to remind me not to run afoul of her good nature. Especially all day. In a confined space. Regardless of how many buffalo she pointed out (it was all of them). I’ve since taught this lesson to my son, though I refer to it as “not being that guy.”

I will miss my grandmother, and grandfather, who passed away not even one year ago. I never knew my dad, and therefore could almost be excused from understanding that two people could be so very much in love, were it not for the pair of them. They inspired me to look for someone with whom I could tolerate the idea of a togetherness spanning decades. In my heart, there is emptiness which is suspiciously their shape.

It’s tempting to despair that I won’t know what to do, should I one day need them again, but then I remember the love we shared, and all of our happy moments, and I realize that I’ve learned everything I needed from them (but nowhere close to what I wanted), and perhaps they left so that I could finally set aside the training wheels.

I love you Grandpa. I love you Grandma. Keep the car running, because I’m waiting on another road trip. And Grandma, I wouldn’t mind that rock-a-bye.

Our Rob or Ross

I think that I may have made a friend today, as childish as that sounds, though when I was a child, there would have been far less uncertainty in my declaration. Back then, it seems, anyone not overtly hostile could easily be considered more affectionately than an acquaintance. Now, of course, there is so much nuance to every interaction, so many subtle subdivisions of the classifications into which I file away the human race, that I am, for the vast majority of any given moment, almost entirely unclear as to how I actually regard any certain person. Were I to factor in the uncertainty of their reciprocity of consideration for myself, the whole thing would descend into such sweet and agonizing improbability and madness that only Chaos Theory could be employed in trying to sort the whole mess out and make heads or tails of it.

That being said, I think I’ve made a friend.

This happens far and far less frequently with every passing year, and not only because I am a slave to overthinking the fine (if functionally irrelevant) details of the myriad minutiae of human interaction. Mainly, it’s because I have no time (or rather, allow myself none of it (aside from moments of explosive decompression)), and, to be honest, very little will to muster in dedication to a friendship.

It’s not that I’m a bad friend (or person, as Bad Leon Suave will likely say), though I’ve not much defense against the former accusation (and to the latter, I’ll politely invite him to just fuck off); I just have too many conflicting priorities, and I’m shit about maintaining any sort of balance. Of my closest friends, there is perhaps a cache of maybe half an hour which I’ve set aside each month to share amongst them. Unless, that is, I happen to be struck with inspiration or brought to breaking by some new or recently rediscovered need.

And who’s to say that this friendship will or will not last? It was discovered while at work, entirely by random happenstance, and in my life to date, those sort of friendships aren’t widely regarded for their longevity, no matter how much I might prefer that they should last. I have also learned, due to paralyzing indecision, and warm soaks in pools of pain and apathy, that sometimes friendships need not last a lifetime, but for just a perfect moment of humour, a convergence of interest, or the simple act of connecting, platonically, with another person.

I wish the recap of my actions could make me out as wise as the words which I can so (seemingly) effortlessly craft.

But all of this has merely been the tangentially connected prologue to that which I’ve truly wished to be rid of from off my chest: I’m pretty sure that I am falling in love (again) with my wonderful, if long-suffering, amazing, and enchanting wife. To clarify, if you’ll indulge me, I don’t mean to say that I ever found a way to stop loving her, despite the countless times my brain has twisted in upon itself to worry at its self-inflicted wounds, if only to ensure that they could never fully heal.

I mean to express nothing more than the simple truth that in thrusting my head so firmly up my ass for all these many years, I’ve passed the point of no return, and have begun to come out on the other side like an ouroboros of having missed the point entirely.

Free, for the moment, of the impositions of  my own obtusity, I can once again see her clearly for the wonder which she is, and find within me some sort of will to see my way to slice the knot (of the Gordian variety) which has bound us through misunderstanding, frustrations, and the divergence of opinion into a creature built only for the experience of misery, trim away the barbs and blood, and fashion from the transmuted chains of resentment, some sort of common bond (fancied up a bit), which we might employ much as a lifeline to, perchance, save one another from the vagaries of life, lost adrift upon the sea.

Yes, that whole monstrosity was just one sentence, and if you’re reading out loud at home, I sincerely hope you finished quickly enough to avoid passing out from oxygen deprivation.

We both swore ’til death (though actually, we didn’t, as our ceremony was entirely more modern) and one of us must die before the other gets to finally win without conditions. Until then, we’ll just have to keep on meeting in the middle, ill-satisfied with compromise, each of our respective win columns punctuated wildly by unsightly asterisks.

Apocalyptica apmb4c Post-Show

#apmb4c

It’s entirely possible that I may be getting too old for this, at least physically. Last night I was transported back twenty years, to when I went to see Metallica for the first time (technically, the only time, but as I bought tickets for the show in ’99, and was unable to attend through no fault of my own, I’m sticking with first time). I was singing, clapping, shouting, throwing the horns, and headbanging. But, even though we had seats (and amazing ones at that), and an intermission, I still feel completely wiped. I never used to need multiple days to recover from a show, and that was back when I was always itching to get in the pit.

This morning, I woke up to find that I had somehow become not only Batman, but the type of Batman to seriously injure his right pinky because he can’t ever seem to remember to take off his wedding ring before a show, and has the spatial awareness and coordination of intoxicated marmoset. At least I don’t have to try to make it through work today (one of the benefits of my schedule is that I can attend a Tuesday night show and still have a day to recover). On top of that, as I said in yesterday’s post, I’m still working through that bug which has been making the rounds, and last night gave it back a bit of hard-earned ground. Would have I rather stayed home last night, though? “Let me hear you say, ‘Fuck no, James!'”

Of the four Apocalyptica shows which I’ve attended, this was easily the best. Everyone was on their game, and, due to our seating (front row, center), we were spared from the massive output from the stacks of speakers hanging on either side of the stage. For the first time in my life, I went to an appropriately loud and heavy metal show, and walked away with perfect (or, more accurately, no net loss of) hearing. On top of that, in addition to it being the best Apocalyptica show I’ve seen, it’s a serious contender for having been the best Metallica show I’ve seen.

David and I left the venue last night around 10:30, and I was overwhelmed by just how much fun I’d had that night. David… well, David is David, and at least this time he managed to stay awake for the entire show (with a small resting of eyes during the intermission). When he’s at home, he can’t seem to get to sleep for shit, requiring a heavy dose of horse tranquilizer and a team of agitated rhinoceroses to put him down. Outside the apartment, however, he begins to tire around 5:30 in the evening, and wants to pass out no later than 8.

He’s only ten now, so I’m hoping by the next time we go to a show, he’s discovered how to store his energy for the show, as opposed to burning through it on the way there by fidgeting and whining more than a sommelier.

But enough of complaining about the inevitable. Here are some highlights from the show:

Hint: It was all highlights

For the first time since the mid-90’s, Enter Blandband sounded fresh and heavy. I know that A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica completely ruined that song for me, but, after last night, I can at least fight back the temptation to skip it or leave the room any time it comes on.

“Escape” was a pleasantly heavy surprise, with an enjoyable bit of introductory banter on how they’d never really played it live before the tour, but neither had Metallica…

I had a moment with Eicca as he was introducing “Battery” by explaining that he’d wanted to record it for their first album, but it was too hard for them to play. When I chuckled (in consolation, mind you, as I also find it too difficult to play), he looked right at me and said, “You can laugh, but it’s harder than it looks!”

When the second set started after intermission, Perttu discussed mentioned that they’d had no idea this genre would become popular, and if they’d known, they might have only looked for two cellists to play AC/DC covers. This was followed up at the end of “Seek and Destroy” when they broke into the intro to “Thunderstruck.”

They ended the night with “One”, dedicating it to the eradication of armed conflicts and a renewed interest in peace, especially in today’s geopolitical climate (a nice callback to Perttu explaining where Finland was, and how they were allies of the U.S., and not to worry about them). I wasn’t expecting political commentary at a metal show, at least not this metal show (or an amusing nod to North Korea), but it was well-played, and, I believe, resonated with the crowd.

During the Meet & Greet, I was able to chat a little with Paavo (my personal hero from the band- David’s, of course, is Perttu), and discovered that he has a daughter that’s David’s age. We joked that we were enjoying this time because it was still “easy” in the years before puberty.

This is the fourth Apocalyptica show that I’ve attended. The first two were at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, and the third was at the Fillmore. After the first show (which I attended with Wildflower), I decided that they were totally worth seeing again. It took a few years, but we caught them twice (once on either end) on their Shadowmaker tour, and after the Meet & Greet last time, where they singled out David for a solo photo to commemorate his first show, I vowed that I would see them whenever they came to town.

They are consummate musicians, engaging entertainers, and masterful performers (I know that these are mostly synonymous, but trust me: The nuance matters). They have helped to redefine a genre, and have done it with passion and professionalism.

So, to Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Antero Manninen, Perttu Kivilaakso, and Mikko Sirén, I say thank you for a wonderful evening. Thank you on behalf of myself, my son, and everyone there. I look forward to your next stop back here (finances permitting, of course, as, much like flying in First Class, once you’ve had the VIP experience, it’s hard to go back).

I would also like to give a small measure of thanks to the other VIP ticket holders sitting near us (some of whom I remember from the last show). Your engagement with David helped to really make him feel involved, and I appreciate that. Here’s to the next time!

And now, as promised (or at least implied), the rest of the photos:

That’s his Metal Face (I guess).
Waiting to go in, after meeting the band.
We had some pretty kick-ass seats.
A little B&W Perttu, Eicca, and Paavo.
Perttu looking Metal AF (left, Antero, right, Eicca)
Perttu’s Hero Pose

As you can see, we were literally feet from the stage.

And from the Meet & Greet:

I suppose I have to get a print of this one now, for next time. (Pictured L-R: Mikko, Paavo, The Minkey, Tex Batmart, Eicca, and Perttu)
This is now up on David’s wall, waiting for a frame.

For comparison, here is the original:

“One with just him…” (Pictured L-R: Perttu, Eicca, The Minkey, Mikko, and Paavo)

Okay, I seriously need a nap. I’m going back to bed.

-Tex

Apocalyptica apmb4c Pre-Show

There are times that I am jealous of my son. At the tender age of one decade, he’s got his own: TV, gaming console, computer, and full set of parents. And as of tonight, he will have gone to two metal shows. And met the band both times. Sure, I’ll have met them both times as well, but I’ve been to significantly more shows than he has.

His first show was the wrap-up of Apocalyptica’s Shadowmaker tour, and I decided to splurge on VIP tickets. That show was also the third time in which my wife and I had seen them (though it was our first VIP experience as well). The whole day, David was bouncing around, stoked that he was going to get to do something cool with mommy and daddy. And why shouldn’t he have been excited? At almost nine years of age, he was getting to stay out late and go see a show in person. Of course, he didn’t maintain his levels of indomitable energy, but that was a slight oversight on my part.

I’ve been going to the occasional show since I was thirteen (Endfest ’93, if you must know, was what officially popped my concert cherry), and the various smells which accompany them had long since passed from the forefront of my brain. No longer did my nose consider overwhelming B.O. or just the slightest wafting hint of marijuana worthy enough of my attention. So while I was enjoying the hell out of the concert, and Wildflower was patiently tolerating it (as it turns out, I’m up for epic walks to venues to save a few dollars, while she is most decidedly not), David was practically nodding off. I figured it was just a case of being burnt out, until I went down from the balcony seating (where Flor had insisted upon sitting) to the main floor where I could properly feel the spirit of Metallica covers played in San Francisco.

Once again, I barely registered the smell of a freshly lit joint, but it wasn’t until I followed the billowing smoke upwards, and caught sight of the balcony where my wife and son were sitting, that I finally figured out why my son, the Energizer Buddy, was so wiped. I walked back up the stairs at the end of the song to rejoin my family, to find David practically passed out, despite the roaring volume in the hall. I briefly let Wildflower know what was going on, and the look I received was murderous.

We finished out the show, and hung around to finally meet the band. Due to some sort of administrative cock-up, the Meet & Greet was held after the show, and it was like herding cats trying to keep David upright, and Wildflower moderately conscious. I could tell that both of them wanted to call it a night, but I felt (rightly so, I still believe) that, as I’d spent the money so that we could have the pleasure of meeting the band, that we should stick around and, you know, actually meet the band.

And I’m glad we did just that. It was a little crazy and disorganized, but Apocalyptica were good sports about it, and we had a nice little time. As they were coming by to do autographs, I mentioned to them that it was David’s very first show. We then lined up to do the photo-op, and after our picture was taken (the three of us), the band then asked to get a separate photo with just David.

I’d already liked the band, their music, and appreciated the quality of their live performances, but this kind of blew me away. They must have been at least a little exhausted (despite the adrenaline, lifting a cello over your head and bowing at Metallica speeds is still, I would imagine, quite an expenditure of energy), and there were quite a few people behind us, but they made a point of doing something special to make a little boy’s day, and that earned my loyalty and respect.

All in all, it was a fun evening, but by that point, even I was looking forward to the comfort of my bed. Due to the Meet & Greet happening after the show, we’d missed our chance to get back to a BART station in time for the last train back to the East Bay, so I sighed, pulled out my phone, and summoned an Uber. Forty dollars later, we arrived home, completely rocked out for the near future. Wildflower also informed me that, since I now had David as a companion, she would be bowing out from future events. And, as much as I’d enjoyed sharing these concerts with her, I understood. It’s just not as much fun when you’re exhausted and not terribly excited about hiking.

I promised David that the next time they were in town, I would take him to the show, and we’d bring a print of the picture with us so that they could autograph it. When the VIP tickets went on sale a few months ago, I snatched up two. I got a print of his “solo” photo, and picked up a pack of metallic sharpies.

So now, I am simply waiting for the day to be on its way. I am still feeling a little crummy from whatever bug has been going around work, but my boss gave me an extra sick day yesterday, and I’m feeling up to about 65% (which is only 10-15% worse than I normally feel on any given day). As of writing this, I’ve got three and a half hours until I get David from school, five hours until we leave for the show, six and a half hours until we pick up our tickets from Will Call, and just under nine hours until the show starts.

I’m watching a video from this tour on YouTube to psyche myself up. And, of course, I’ll be posting a Post-Show review of tonight’s experience.

“One with just him…”

Sentimental Drivel, Part 2

So, last year I wrote something for Thanksgiving about family and loss. I’d forgotten about it until it popped up in my feed of memories on Facebook, and I thought that it would be nice to do another one for this year. And then I remembered everything that’s happened in 2016, and how there’s still a month left for everything to just get worse. Still, here I am, a week later, sitting down to try and figure out where it all went wrong, wading once more through the sentimental drivel of a life gone off the rails.

I spoke of my fears of losing my grandparents, and how it seemed so unreal when my great-grandmother died, and how I missed my brothers. In the back of my mind was also the fear that no one was listening to what I had to say, and growing, gnawing dread that my words would fall upon nothingness, and be greeted accordingly. It seems, of course, that the universe (at least, the one which I perceive), has a twisted sense of humor.

I won’t go into detail about the celebrities who’ve passed, for though many of them touched my life, they were still but stories to me. Nor will I go into any great depth about the presidential election which befell us, for though stark and terrible in its import, is something which must be faced in the coming months, and is still too close for proper reflection. No, in this Second Annual Thanksgiving Missive (or, What Kind of (Year) Has it Been, Part 3: The Sorkining), I will limit the scope of my despair to my personal life, and hold it up before you, like a cornucopia of lightly seasoned misery, to be nibbled upon while watching the world begin to burn.

This was the year in which my Grandfather died.

We all had assumed that it would have been my Grandmother to go first, but she’s still hanging on so that I can see her one last time in January. Now that I’ve said that, I’m sure 2016 will find some way to rip her from me, but I am ready for a fight with said construct of reality, and I’ve been saving up some swear words for this very occasion.

I made three trips up to The Island this Spring. The first was easily the best, as my Grandpa was still himself, though significantly diminished. The second was when I knew that he was going to die. I mean, I knew he that wouldn’t be around much longer, but it was on the second trip that I knew. Shortly after I returned to the Bay Area, he passed. I still have the Voicemail saved on my phone because there are times when I need my pain. I remember sitting at a table after my shift at Jupiter, and speaking to my mother on the phone while trying not crumble (and failing miserably).

The third trip up was for the funeral, and, as I may have mentioned, was bittersweet. It was the first time that all of his grandchildren were together in the same place and time. It was a shame that we never managed to make it happen while he was still alive. I bought a bottle of the Blue Label, and we grown children toasted our grandfather and tried our best to keep it together.

I know it is but a matter of time until I lose my Grandmother. And I know that, as stubborn as she is, there isn’t much of a chance that she can hang on until I can manage to get up there again. I know this, and I am close to breaking. My only wish, my only hope, is that, if she must go, she waits until it’s no longer my birthday. That may seem selfish, but I’ve got a clever plan to sacrifice my birthdays for the next forty years to claim each day until I can get back up there as an Honorary Day of my Birth. See how clever I am? See how desperately and fiercely I throw myself at the Inevitable?

I was too chicken to speak what I had written for my Grandfather at his funeral, and I will most likely be too broken to utter anything but whimpers when my mother’s mother passes, so I’m going to put everything down right here, right now.

Patricia Yeo

It is my hope that when my turn comes to pass to shuffle off the mortal coil, that someone who knew me will be able to accurately (and embarrassingly) describe my life to those who think they knew me. And I know that neither my children, nor grandchildren will do justice to the task at hand. For I am one person to my kids (or rather, a couple, as they have known me in different capacities throughout their lives), and another to my grandchildren (who most likely feel, and not entirely incorrectly, that I was a pretty cool guy who had their back in minor skirmishes with their parents). That’s nowhere near the whole story of Tex Batmart, and not how I deserve to be remembered. But, because I enjoy juxtaposition, irony, and the doctrine of “Do What I Say, And Not What I Do,” here is her grandson’s eulogy of her:

For almost four and a half decades, my grandmother had a rich and exciting life which, I can only assume, happened to help her kill the time until I arrived. Sure, I wasn’t her first grandchild (beaten by just a few weeks by my cousin, Richard), nor was I her last (an honor held by my cousin, Carolyn, whose birth was sponsored by the Great Snowstorm of 1990 (The Great Snowstorm of 1990: For when one fortnight without power just isn’t enough!)). But, I can say, with no small amount of modesty, that at least I was the best. At the very least, I won by sheer proximity.

From an early age, my Grandmother was my favorite, having taught me my very first curse word in a moment of acute discomfort. And while I spent a considerable amount of time enjoying Grandpa Day on the Fridays of my youth, my grandmother was always there with a hug and inhuman patience as I was slowly becoming myself. But I didn’t fully appreciate her until I was a teenager.

You see, she wasn’t a pushover, by any means, but in her I found the support which I’d been lacking from the world. She stood by me on promises she’d made, and generally felt that if I was old enough to have opinions, I was old enough to see their consequences. It was this outlook which helped shape me into the man I am today, and has inspired my parenting style (much to the chagrin of my wife and child). In short, she treated me like a person at time when everyone else was telling me to sit down and shut up. And she would also argue with me.

Oh, how I will miss those arguments. I am tempted to compromise my spiritual beliefs just for the chance to spend eternity debating her. Of course, I don’t know if she would classify that as Eternal Bliss, so I suppose I’ll have to just stick to my beliefs, and leave her to her own.

She taught me how to be myself, and to fight for what is right (even if we disagreed on what that might have been). She loved me and accepted me for I was, and when she felt that I was wrong, she told me why, not just that she was. Her passing has a left a void in all of us which we shall remain unable to fill, and I hope that I can live up her to standards once all is said and done.

As for now, I will continue to endeavor to be better than I am, braver than I am, and maybe, one day, I’ll have the courage to face the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland without a sense of abject terror (though I’m sure that says something profoundly philosophical about me).

I love you, Grandma. And I hope that you are finally at rest, and at peace.

In Memorium

William Edward Yeo

1931-2016

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Loss

I don’t expect this post to be good- in fact, I would be surprised if it winds up even readable. There are many things which I have been through, some of them my own making, and others the end result of razor-tipped butterfly effect, but I have never suffered a loss quite like this before. It devastated me when my great-grandmother died, especially because, in retrospect, I had plenty of time to go and see her before her time came (of course, I never did, but that was because I felt that she would be ashamed of me, and where I was in my life, which is more a testament to my own self-loathing than an accurate depiction of who Gram truly was. I now believe that she would have only been ashamed of me if I had well and truly given up: resigned myself to drug addiction and failure, without ever trying to reach the stars for which I had been yearning since I was a little boy.), but chose to stay away. When the news came to me of my grandfather, I was determined not to make the same mistake. And though there was nothing I could do beside bring a smile to his face upon his realization of my arrival, I felt that, this time, I was finally able to say goodbye.

Here’s the thing, though, and again, it says more about me as a trainwreck of emotional instability than it does of his decency as a human being that the most vivid memory I have of him was from one of the lowest points in my life. It was December of 2000, and my drug-addicted girlfriend and I were on a break (please try to remember what a social powerhouse Friends was during my era). I was still avoiding my mother due to reasons mentioned elsewhere in The Vaults Of Uncle Walt, and so I went back to the one place where I knew that I was always welcome: my grandparents’ home. They had both told me that I was like a fourth child to them, and that their house would always be my home, so, when I’d had no alternative, I came back to them.

My grandmother and I are very similar: stubborn worriers who must always have the last word, and who enjoy the sport of argument more viscerally than any other. The qualities which I inherited from my grandfather are far more… intangible. Intelligence, obviously (though my grandmother is no slouch herself), and an ease of learning which makes people who have to study begin to steam about the ears. Then there is the consistency of rulemaking, which my son can attest that I have inherited as well, which boils down to clear and concise rules regarding what is acceptable and what is not, and the consequences which befall each action. But, of course, there is no one better suited to describe what my grandfather gave to me than my own two grandchildren. For my part, I have merely attempted to emulate my own grandfather, be as patient and loving as my own grandpa was, but for them, to have someone to sneak them sweets, or goof around with them, or to exist as a neverending font of unconditional love, I think that they shall be eternally grateful to a man they never got to know.

I seem to have wandered off-topic for a bit, and for that, I apologize. Let’s see if I can pull myself together and get this missive back on track.

For the record, before I start in on this narrative flashback: We spoke some number of years ago about this incident, and came to peace with one another.

My life was spinning out of control. I was an intravenous drug user with a mission which might have made Don Quixote reconsider, and in no mood whatsoever to suffer the advice of someone who “just didn’t get it.” Everything was going more or less okay, despite the fact that I was living with my grandparents, and separated from my girlfriend for whom I had plunged headfirst into the icy waters of self-destruction (though, to be fair, it didn’t require any arm-twisting whatsoever). And then, though I remember it as coming from out of the blue, it might very well have been rooted in something topical, he began to lecture me about the importance of staying clear of debt collectors. At that point in my life, I hadn’t actually ever had anything in my own name (the benefits of dating a woman in her mid-thirties), and just knew that I knew what the hell I was doing. I mean, I did, and it all worked out in the end, but still… Statistically speaking, his talk was dead-center and on-point. And then… I broke.

I started shouting at him in couplets of salty metaphors, decrying his diatribes toward responsibility, and reminding him that I knew what I was doing (while philosophically true, I must admit that my methods are far more hands-off than I might otherwise care to admit). I then stormed out, in adolescent fashion, slamming the door behind me, but not before I informed him, in no uncertain terms that he could feel free to asexually reproduce (though, grammatically speaking, it was more of an imperative).

Perhaps someday I will allow myself to believe that I am worthy of the example which he set for me, though at this moment, I find it difficult to believe. I just hope that he knew how much he meant to a little boy who grew up without a father, who so desperately required someone to love him for who he was.

I love my grandfather, and I miss everything about him. I weep for the knowledge that I will never see him again, though I do not weep for him. I weep for myself, and for the world, as it must come to terms with the emptiness which remains in the wake of his passing.

I miss my grandfather.

Sentimental Drivel

This time of year, millions of people come together to spend time with family, and give thanks for all the blessings which they believe they have been granted (statistically). Inevitably, points of view begin to diverge, much as they had before everyone had moved away, and, thanks in no small part to social lubricant, this holiday of gratitude becomes a dirge of regret and thinly-hidden animosity (results may vary). And while I might be willing to risk a conversation taking a turn for the political just that I might see those whom I love once more, the reality is that I have neither the time nor money to make the journey this year (I didn’t make it last year either, at least not until Christmas). And, if I am to be completely honest, as I am wont to do (having been chastised for doing so on no small number of occasions since beginning this blog), sometimes the memory is better than reality, no matter how faded it may have become. The place I want to go is warm, familiar, and somewhere I once called home, but in the background, deep beneath the stories which I’ve heard one thousand times (“So I says to this guy, I says…”) an ideological schism has grown, growling irreconciliations, and tempting ill-dropped commentary which the bonds of family ought ignore. I do not hold myself above this petty label-making, for I am always ready to argue in the name of what I believe is right (actually, I really don’t need a reason to jump into an argument, as I believe that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination), consequences be damned. Perhaps it’s better that I stay away, no matter how it pains me, so that I may use the time and distance to remember better things (sweet memories whose bitterness have long since faded). As the title implied, this may contain some sentimental drivel.

This past decade and a half  have been a time of unprecedented loss. I lost my writing and photography, and then my great-grandmother. I moved away, unable to face the pain of staying, and came to lose a child (though, in truth, it is perhaps better that it never had the chance to suffer through the death throes of the failed and shattered love between its mother and myself). After a span of about a decade of near-happiness, I now face the prospect of losing my grandparents to the ravages of time and the fading health which follows on the coattails of advancing age. I will admit it now: I am afraid. I am afraid of seeing them so withered, and broken, so torn apart by the fleeing youth which had long ago abandoned them. I prefer to see them in my mind as I best remember them, from twenty years ago, when they were not quite young, but still vital, with things to do, and purpose to their lives which seems to drive them no longer. Never again will we take a road trip to Montana, nor go to Disneyland, that I might express disdain, proclaiming that I would not return (seven-year-old me was kind of a pain in the ass. I’m glad that I outgrew that). Where they once fit so seamlessly into the world, their auras discrete, and yet attuned to everything around them, now they sit beneath an empty, hollow glow, which seems to mark them ready for removal from my world. I am not afraid of death, for I am so very tired, and I am not frightened by the end of things, for therein merely lie beginnings yet unknown, but the one thing which I cannot bear is waiting for the end, a long and drawn out march to the very edge of the sea of time (I feel that I go swimming there, upon my melancholy holidays, until my mortal flesh succumbs, and spiritual hypothermia sets in, shocking me back to life).

As I seem to be in one of my moods again, I might as well make the very best of it. Rather than mourn those who fade away, perhaps I will, instead, celebrate the fallen. One of the reasons why Thanksgiving will never be the same has almost everything to do with the summer of 2002, and the loss of my great-grandmother. I’d stayed away, as I’d believed myself a source of shame, and never had my chance to say goodbye (I’m still trying to decide whether to forgive myself), even though I had countless reminders and opportunities, and a mother who constantly reminded me that time was running short.

I will miss the apple pies and applesauce, the smell of her house, warmed to the point of slightly hotter than was necessarily tolerable. I remember living next door to her and running over just to say hello. I remember standing at the edge of her deck, and gazing out upon the Puget Sound, and thinking that somewhere just beyond what I could see, there was a waterfall which would sweep me out toss me down into the endless sea. I remember kindness. And patience. And time for each and every of her many great-grandchildren. And grandchildren. And children. I remember Christmases when we would all pack into her home, and fight for real estate and pole position closest to the tree, sneaking glances to discover just how many of the presents there belonged to us (that was mostly something done by the kids, as the grownups had beer and wine and stories, which always seemed to stretch on into infinity, unnecessarily delaying the opening of the gifts). There wasn’t nearly enough time, as it turned out. How I would kill for just another chance to say hello, or bum a jar of applesauce again (seriously, that applesauce was amazing! I make a pretty good version, but it is a pale imitation of my great-grandmother’s honed and perfected recipe).

I remember at her funeral, when I looked at her (the first time in somewhere close to forever), and thought that I supposed that someone who had never met her, might confuse this corpse for her, but for me, it seemed nothing more or less than an impostor, as this body contained within its features almost exactly nothing in common with the woman whom I had known my entire life, aside from a passing similarity in hairstyle.

I am grateful for the time I had to spend with her when I was growing up, and I am grateful that she died when I was old enough to not forget her (though that’s as much a curse as it is a blessing). And I am grateful for all the time I spent with my grandparents, who lived just a short walk along the beach away from me. And I am grateful for my mother’s brother and her sister, for being there to have some fun with me on special (and ordinary) occasions. Hell, I’m even grateful to my mother, though I don’t often say it, and I won’t say why, because a little mystery is the spice of life. I’m grateful for my wife, for putting up with this past decade (more or less- my soul screams more, but the calendar chuckles slightly less), and for giving me no option other than facing down my doubts and giving fatherhood a try. And I’m grateful to the Minkey for being who is, though I beg of you not to mention this to him, as he’ll only find a way to use my sentiment against me. To my daughter, though by marriage, somehow almost completely my own, and her children whom I love in that way that only a grandparent can. To Fed, and Bad Leon, my brothers by choice, who’ve always found a way to be there when I needed them the very most, though we might be separated by hundreds of miles, at least. And to everyone whom I’ve left out: I thank you for the roles you’ve played in this production which I’ve come to know as the narrative of my life.

Ah crap, I’ve fallen into a steaming pile of sentimental drivel, and it seems that I’ve neglected to pack a shovel.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, each and every one of you!

(And if you’re tired of checking back daily for columns which most likely aren’t going to come, please subscribe to the email… thing. Every time I find the time to sit down and pound out words, you’ll get a… thing… in your inbox. Or you can keep coming back… Whatever.)

-Tex

Mother’s Day (Part Two)

Before anyone starts in about me beating a dead horse, or, conversely, showing my hypocritical nature by now saying something nice about someone whom I had previously excoriated, let me say this: The previous post with the same (well, similar) title was in reference to the office of Mother, not the actual person. I am not such a monster as to believe that said person did not do her best or that she didn’t love me. That being said, I did (and do) have issues about the execution of said office, and for those, I air my grievances to the world. While it may not seem fair to publicly call someone out for an ostensibly private occupation, the fact is that I am entitled to my memories and experiences, and my interpretations of them. But, enough about the negative and intentionally provocative: I am writing this (albeit, a smidgen belatedly) in celebration of my mother’s birth (and indeed, her life). Just a note: as with the first Mother’s Day post, I am basing my words upon my experiences, as my knowledge of my mother as a human being is more lacking than I would normally prefer. But everybody has a story, and I would like to tell you hers.

From an inauspicious beginning as a somewhat sickly child, someone who might normally have been naturally selected to burn twice as bright for half the time, had it not been for the advances in modern medicine, my mother not only survived into adulthood, but thrived despite the innumerable challenges which seemed to pile on top of her, not the least of which was yours truly. Looking back at the broad strokes, it seems almost comical the sheer volume of misfortune which she was forced to endure (which I draw attention to not out of malice, but out of a desire to highlight the ridiculous amount of hurdles which she had to clear just so that she could achieve the next set of challenges which lay ahead). She has had to remain more than slightly medicated just so that she could continue to breathe, she fell in love and married, thinking of the family which she could begin to build, only to have the marriage end in acrimony and be forced into single motherhood. While she managed to get a job which allowed her make almost enough to survive upon, while also giving her enough time to spend with her son, eventually even that turned sour (though not for a couple of decades- and, I cannot say this enough, it was not my fault).

Her son was irritatingly intelligent, constantly testing the boundaries of both acceptable behavior and her patience, that is, when he wasn’t trying to set her up with doctors, or really, anyone who might have been able to fill the role of father figure (whether or not they wanted that role). When she saw that her son was coming apart at the seams, she did what seemed best, fell back upon those things with which she was familiar, and tried to help him through religion, and, when that didn’t work, counseling. As the years progressed, and her son, the one for whom she had wished with all of her heart to have, became withdrawn and impervious to compromise or reason (in her eyes). He seemed determined to destroy every opportunity which she had set up for him, obsessing over trivialities which would never be enough to actually enable him to survive. Perhaps his lashing out and self-destructive behavior reminded her of her ordeals with her ex-husband. Perhaps she drank the Kool-Aid and blamed everything on drugs. I will say that I am more prepared for this sort of thing, should it come to pass with my son, than she could ever have been.

Despite her best intentions, I did indulge in self-medication, though that was more of an attempt to manage the pain of living as opposed to the cause of said pain. But that was not her fault. As a mother, I may have found her skill set lacking, but as a human being, she did her very best. I have firsthand experience with mental illness, with drug use, with… dubious… career choices. The only thing to throw a monkey wrench into my parenting ability would be if the Minkey turned out to be a normal, well-adjusted kid. Everything she did, she did to try to spare me from the pain of learning things the hard way, as she had been forced to do. Of course, as should be painfully obvious by now, I am the type of person who would rather fail by my own choices than succeed by blindly following the advice (or orders) of others. In short, she and I had drastically different worldviews, and there was never really any chance that her careful preparations would do me any good.

But, one time in my life, I did manage to get something right on the first try. It was the middle of July, 2006. Somehow I had managed to keep secret her surprise, and, despite the very nature of who I am, I actually gave her a decent birthday present that year. You see, that was the year of her half-century mark, and I wanted to surprise her by showing up and wishing her a happy birthday in person. I caught a flight up, met her roommate, and was chauffeured out to her church, where she was doing something or other. I walked in the door, and, as casually as I could, walked up and past her, saying, “Hey mom,” like it was any other day (from a decade past). I had seen double-takes on television, in movies, and cartoons, but up until that moment, I had never actually witnessed one in real life. Of course, then came the water works, and the incessant hugging, but I had braced myself for this on the flight up (with the help of a number of Bloody Marys). What she’d wanted more than anything was to have me home, as for some reason she had missed me. Hey, even I can get it right, once in a while.

Anyway, I just wanted to wish her a happy birthday this year, and tell her that, as a person, I love her.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

No one in this picture is EVER happy with me...
No one in this picture is EVER happy with me…

Sighs of Regret

It’s a good thing that I’ve pretty much given up on trying to meet my goal of 365,000 words this year, or I’d be feeling fairly down on myself for having fallen so far behind. And it’s a good thing that I haven’t been spending a lot of time pondering my decision to leave a job which (though I was being underpaid) covered my expenses so that I could get myself into debt and wind up working a $9/hr job with less than 30 hours a week, because I might start to get really worried about how I was going to make it this time around. But the fact is that I needed the break which I allowed myself to take, and it was nice to get back to doing something that I actually wanted to do, for a change. I knew that it would be nearly impossible to try to write while working a full-time gig, but it turns out that even trying to steal away a few moments throughout the week is proving hard enough. I’d been thinking that at least I’ll have a little more time to be by myself when David goes back to school, but by then, I’ll either have a different job (one which will most likely not afford me the opportunity to work in the wee hours), or have been promoted (which means a switch to full-time in addition to a raise in my hourly wage), which means that the time I have right now, when David would otherwise have been at school, will still be unavailable to me.

As for my source of employment, there’s not a whole lot to report upon right now. I am still being groomed for that promotion, which basically involves throwing more work and responsibility at me without any change in my rate of pay or the number of hours for which I am scheduled on a weekly basis. I’m convinced that the guy in charge is completely useless, and that it probably wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world for me to try to find something else sooner rather than later. My department is slowly flying apart, as more and more people are growing increasingly frustrated with the current state of management, which includes an increased workload as more and more people leave, and the general manager refuses to get hands-on as would normally be recommended. I’ve even had some of my coworkers ask me to remember them if I manage to land a restaurant management gig somewhere nearby. Even if it weren’t turning into a complete shit show, the very fact that everyone is nurturing escape plans makes me unwilling to face the possibility of having to do the work of at least twelve people (of which we currently have seven) all by my very lonesome. I’ve even started romanticizing the last place where I worked, but luckily, my son-in-law still works there, and it is through his stories that I am able to remind myself of all the reasons why I left.

On the Minkey Front, it turns out that, in addition to his nose, he has also inherited his mother’s eyes, both in form and function. I mean, I’m not saying that my eyesight is perfect, but it turns out that my son is, for all intents and purposes, blind as a bat. I think Flor said that his glasses should be ready in a couple of weeks, at which point it is my sincere hope that he actually will begin to want to read. Well, that and that he might not need to drape himself over my desk so that he can watch his cartoons. It is also my hope that clarity of vision will lead to better penmanship. At least if he can see, his vacation will not have been for nothing. I know that he is bored out of his mind this summer, but I wish he knew (in a way that wouldn’t scar him for life) just how trying his constant presence is for the rest of us. It’s not that we don’t love him, it’s just that he’s a very… intense person, and should only be taken in small doses. In that regard, as well as normally wearing his heart upon his sleeve, he is very much my son. I know it’s wrong to say, but I feel rather  like Ford Prefect in the company of Arthur Dent when spending time with David. And you better believe that I know where my towel is!

As for the writing, well, I’m trying to figure out how to budget some time for myself more that once a week so that I can, at the very least, keep up with the blog. It’s hard because my normal solution would be to go to bed an hour earlier, and make with the clickety-clackety before I go to work. But it’s hard enough to get a proper amount of sleep anyway, and if I tried to put David to bed that early, I’m pretty sure that I’d be facing a full revolt before the end of summer. But the real news is that I’ve been running bits and pieces of {Book #4} around in my head while trying to figure it out (Books #1 and #2 are “Parade”, which I know I have to start before I have forgotten everything, but whose events are so traumatic as to make me nervous about reliving them again, no matter how “noble” the cause may be; Book #3 is The Wild West Fantasy, which I’ve been playing with for a while, but haven’t really decided what I want to do with it). But I think that I finally figured out {Book 4}. It was going to be a fictional account (based on true stories) and told from a female point of view, but I then decided that I could structure it more like a series of interviews. Now, of course, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll probably just write out each interview, and then integrate those all together into an overarching narrative. Or not. It’s still early.

And it’s not like I’m suffering from an overwhelming sense of regret.

Birthdays and Stories

Eight years ago today, just a little after eight o’clock at night, The Minkey took his first breaths, and I was changed forever (obviously, he was fundamentally changed by the very act of being born, and, having been a twelve-pound natural birth, he rather changed his mother as well, but this is my story, so we’re sticking with my perspective). It was a fitting end to an eventful pregnancy, and I found myself staring into the unending stretch of infinity as I considered what this tiny baby represented, and how he carried me forever forward into the future, yet another step towards genetic immortality, a journey which had begun billions of years before, and would continue until the last of my descendants failed to use their charm to talk a member of the opposite sex into overlooking our obvious physical limitations in favor of our humor and romantic natures. I figured that I would be the final member of my particular genetic line, but it turns out that there is someone for everyone, and several months later, nature having taken care of itself without any regard to my efforts both to help and to hinder, my son was passed that particular torch, and from somewhere deep with a double helix, I felt a sigh of relief. I may have valid reasons for having been hesitant to pass along defective genes, but they didn’t recognize my authority to negotiate on their behalf.

David was born a week late, and would have been induced on the tenth anniversary of a very special night (one that only comes once in a young man’s life), had he not decided to enter the world when he had. I’d been growing concerned about this, feeling that it must be some sort of sign that something was going to happen, and it was bad enough that Flor, despite being a little over nine months pregnant, picked up on it almost immediately. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really the sort of thing that a guy can openly discuss with his pregnant girlfriend. I did manage to build up the courage to tell her a number of years later, to about the sort of reception which I had been imagining. The evening of the 26th, we decided to take an evening for ourselves, Flor and I, figuring that, one way or another, it might very well be our last chance for the foreseeable future, and went out to an Italian restaurant in downtown Berkeley which we’d seen before, but at which we’d never eaten. I forgot what Flor ordered, but I had the pasta carbonara. As it tuns out, I should have been paying better attention to Flor’s menu option, as the following morning, the contractions began.

I distinctly remember being calmer than expectant fathers are normally portrayed in film, but Flor reminds every year that I was just as excitable and useless. Her brother (and his children) came to pick us up in the early afternoon, and drive us to the hospital. We took a more direct route than that which I had grown accustomed to, having become a professional rider of buses, and I remember thinking how strange it was that I had never been that way before, and how streets lined on either side with Palm tress seemed both beautiful and stereotypically Californian. Flor had made sure that we’d brought everything important for the next few days, whereas I made sure I’d brought along my Cuban cigar, which had been a gift from Fed. I’d suggested that perhaps a bottle of Absinthe might have been more appropriate, both metaphorically and literally, but he reminded me that a cigar was more traditional, and that the Absinthe in his possession was his. Unwilling to walk away empty-handed, I thanked him for the cigar, and talked him out of a glass of Absinthe, since he already had it out. It was delicious.

Up until we’d gotten to the hospital, Flor seemed under the delusion that she would prefer to have a completely natural experience. I kept reminding her that having a miniature human explode from her nether regions, while traditional and evolutionarily approved, was still about the most unnatural thing that either of us was likely to experience until Holodecks became a thing. As the contractions grew closer, and the shifting mass of life began to thrash about her womb as if it were a mosh pit, she began to reconsider, which was good, because by the time she finally got the epidural, it was almost too late. They’d left her suffering for too long, and when they finally showed up, she practically jammed the needle into her spine on her very own. I would like to take a moment now to mention something which has been riffed upon by comedians for as long as I can remember: I would like to get an epidural at least once before I die. I have been high, in my more youthful days, to such an extent that I could understand both nothingness and infinity (they are the same thing), warp across large spaces in just a couple of steps, and get lost between my driveway and the next, and I have never been as high as Flor was in the hours before my son was born.

I told her stories about a Princess who came to a strange land to save the day, sacrificing the life she knew for one of constant confusion and struggle. How she was stuck there, even after her quest was done, as if there was something more which she had yet to do. How she met a warbling minstrel, and fell in love with him, though she was of noble birth, and he was as far from nobility as one could ever hope to be. How they had a son, an intelligent and creative son, one who would validate their struggles in this land which was not her own, and redeem them with the beauty which he would both deliver to, and inspire within this sad and barren country. And how, though she had not seen them since she’d had to leave, her parents, the King and Queen forgave her for her absence, and were well pleased by their newborn grandson. By the time I had finished, she had been passed out for a while, though for exactly how long, I couldn’t tell you, as I’d been caught up in the telling of our story in only slightly mangled Spanish. Her dreams did not last for long, however, as when it was go time, the stabs of pain tore raggedly through the blanket haze of the drugs and brought her into focus.

David spent the first week of his life in the NICU, and Flor, though discharged from the hospital, never left his side. When we were finally able to bring him home, it seemed that he’d gotten so much bigger (though, according to his measurements, he’d only barely caught up with his birth weight), and all of the newborn clothes and accessories we’d purchased and were given, were woefully inadequate to cover him. It was a mad dash to get him larger things to wear, both clothing and diapers, and we discovered that they don’t actually make newborn things in giant sizes. He grew so quickly, both physically and mentally, that by the time Valentine’s Day ’08 had rolled around, he’d managed enough motor control to stab me in the eye. Before I knew it, he was walking (and getting into everything), talking (he still hasn’t shut up since), and doing his best to force his will upon everyone he meets.

Average attendance for David's parties (not really).
His first birthday party was a little underwhelming.

Soon it was time for his first birthday party, which, as I mentioned above, was a little underwhelming. We also took him up to celebrate in Washington, but the turnout was more or less the same, especially if you disqualify family attendance. And then, before we knew it, his sister came to live with us, Flor and I got married, and David was celebrating another birthday. His third and fourth birthdays were slightly more festive affairs (with a Star Trek cake and TARDIS cake, respectively), and by his fifth birthday, his mother had decided not to spend a fortune on his party. This year is a far more sober affair, intentionally small and inexpensive, and I’m hoping that it will be his favorite to date, but mainly because he’s getting LEGO Jurassic World, and he hasn’t shut up about wanting it since the first time that he saw that it existed.

I have had the pleasure of knowing him for his entire life, and watching him along the path to the man who he is destined to become, growing and developing before my very eyes. From the first time that I saw him on a sonogram, appearing as some sort of water-based demonic lifeform, to the first time that I saw him in the flesh, covered in goo, with a reflating head, to the moment when I knew that I was a dad, when he was connected up to machines through wires and tubes stuck into the stump of what once had been his most intimate connection to another human being, I have watched him grow. And from the first time he rolled over, to his first steps, to his roaming about and randomly collapsing in the backyard of the apartment which we had in Berkeley, I have been there to see him developing. His first words spoken, his first sentence, and the first words, and then first book he ever read; the pride in me swelled up so much that I could barely maintain a balance. I do not know who he’ll become, but I’ve seen him as he’s doing it. I love him a little more, each and every day, though there are times when I would much rather not have to suffer him. He is my son, my future and my nemesis, and I love him more than I ever though was possible.

From the moments in which I first saw him
From the moments in which I first saw him
My reason for wanting to have a better life. Also pictured: My family.
To the first time that he something which I had wanted him to see
Progress and Equality in the 21st Century? Ha!
To when he began to laugh at me
"Well, you NEVER share with me SOMETIMES!" -David, right now.
To when I stopped feeling bad when I laughed at him
And, other times, he is... less profound.
From the happy moments
To the sad
To the sad
Looking out into the distance
I have always loved him
And I always will
And I always will
From now until my final breath
From now until my final breath
David William, I love you
David William, I love you