We went to the Aquarium of the Pacific and I told her she could have a new toy from the gift shop. I also told her that meant when we got home, she had to pick one of her old toys to give away. (We say "to give to babies" for all things that she's outgrown.) It was a long drive home after the Aquarium and lunch but the minute she got in the house, she went straight to the toy box and picked out a toy for me to give to babies.
I had forgotten about in the hustle of getting home and emptying back-packs, etc. So when she went right to her room, it took me a minute to figure out what she was doing, digging through her toy box. Then she pulled a toy and said that one could go, but I had to convince her otherwise as it was the Totoro given to her by her cousin Jamie! Then she pulled out an old baby doll. Perfect. She then found the accompanying diaper and shirt and it was done.
Once Grief comes into your life, it is always with you. Not always in the forefront, but always there. There are daily (hourly) reminders of what you've lost. Sometimes the reminders are sweet and funny - memories of experiences you had, pictures of younger selves. And you can smile, feel nostalgic and sad, but mostly warmed by a good memory. Some reminders are bastards that come at you with force, knocking the wind out of you, making you wonder how on earth you've gotten this far, for this long without the person who died.
Many things have brought Grief up lately. Our neighbor's mom died recently. She was 98 and her end was comfortable and good. As good as any unwanted end could be. I also had a conversation with Grace around that time about Jen and thinking about what we've all lost - we lost a mom, a sister, a wife, a daughter, a good friend, a kind person. My neighbor, whose grief is raw and new, talked with me about how it feels like a roller coaster, a minefield, a geyser. If only it were a geyser like Old Faithful, when you can anticipate the blasts of emotions and schedule around them. It's really more like a minefield.
When someone is ripped from your life, not only are they gone, but you get sent to Griefland without your consent. It's an alternate universe that looks exactly like this one but is full of mines. You pick your way through - sometimes you are blown apart, sometimes only mildly bruised. Though admittedly the "mildly bruised" part comes a long way after the initial arrival in Griefland. When you first arrive, you are simply blown apart the whole time. It takes a while but eventually you can put pieces of yourself back together long enough to withstand the next blasts.
Patton Oswalt is an actor and comedian I admire. His wife died a few months ago, unexpectedly and way too young. They have a seven year old daughter. He's in the desperately-trying-to-breathe-there's-not-enough-air-in-here phase of grief and he wrote an essay that starts with "Thanks Grief." (Read the full piece here.)
If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get 'em to love you back.
But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel "wiser." You will not have "closure." You will not have "perspective" or "resilience" or "a new sense of self." You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe.
There is no "closure" when it comes to someone you love dying. They are gone and there is no coming back and you have to live with it. How can you close that loop when a giant piece of it is missing?
I'm obsessed with the Broadway show Hamilton. In the second act, there is an unexpected death and in the aftermath of it is a song called "It's Quiet Uptown" with these opening lyrics:
There are moments that the words don't reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you're in so deep It feels easier to just swim down The Hamiltons move uptown And learn to live with the unimaginable
"It feels easier to just swim down." Lin-Manuel Miranda knows things.
When I first heard this song I was still reeling from the previous song in which the death takes place, so I didn't really hear this one. After a few more listens I just lovehate this opening verse. It's so beautifulawful. (I can't listen to this song unless I'm alone and not expecting to see anyone for a while so my eyes can recover from all the crying.)
The best advice I got about grief was "the only way out is through." Grief is pain and suffocating. Grief knocks you down, literally. Grief is confusing and messy.
You have to feel it all, experience it all, every day, one foot in front of the other. You can't suppress the feelings because they will wait and fester. You can't push them away and expect them to be gone. Those brutal feelings are never gone. It does get easier less hard. Later, eventually. In your own time.
It's been eight years since Jen died, 10 since my dad died and 23 since my GrandmaJane died. Even now I still have pieces of grief I express about my grandma that are leftover from 1993 because I would not let myself feel those shocking horrible feelings. They are like pieces of shrapnel that work their way to the surface of my skin and finally come out.
The grief I have been working with lately is about not making any new memories. My analogy is that we are all in our own boats, sailing along together and at some point those who have died drop anchor. You can still see their colorful sails, but they get farther away. The memories will always be there, but without the person you shared them with, there is not a constant refreshing of those experiences, the laughter, the anger, whatever. You know what? I don't know what the hell the sailboat analogy is about. Except it's about desperately trying to make sense of something that you can't makes sense of. And I'm startled, sometimes daily, to realize my memories of Jen will fade more quickly then they should over time because she's not here to help me remember.
I'm still learning to live with the unimaginable. I'll never stop having to learn.
I wish for all of you that you don't get a ticket to Griefland for a long long time. If you are already there, walk carefully, but keep walking.
Harper is in her third and last year of preschool. The new kids look like BABIES but I know that's what Harper looked like when she started. But it's not just the height/weight/vocabulary. It's the new ways of thinking, new ways of communicating that floor me when she does something different. (And the inordinate use of the word "butt" is not what I'm talking about here.)
This morning we approached the school gate and Harper looked over and saw a boy with his dad crossing the street to us. Harper said to me, "Oh that's a new boy!" Then she waved at him and said, "Hi! Hi!" I asked what his name was and she couldn't remember so I said "Tell him "My name is Harper, what is your name?"" and she did it with such excitement. The boy was shy but the dad said, "Jaden" and we both said, "Hi Jaden!"
My sweet girl! I just loved that she was so happy to see a new kid and to wave and say hi and make him feel welcome.
The whole Nature vs. Nurture thing hangs over my head a lot - yes I can teach Harper rules and manners, but what do her instincts tell her and how is that mixed in with what she's been taught? So much unknown there. Then to see her act that way, to new, younger kids, warms my heart so much it explodes into giant butterflies that float and flutter inside my body for days, forever.
I'm amazed at this wonderful person we made but who is also her own person.
The first half of 2006 had been a fun year, jetting to Paris and up and down North America. And by the way, if you ever get the chance to hang in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Montreal, take it! We got to relax in the business class lounges for all of our travels because in 2005 I was supposed to have worked on a long term project in Virginia. I would have been flying twice a month from LA to Richmond for about eight months so my work partner and I decided to spend the money on a United Red Carpet club membership. Then that job got cancelled but I still had the membership. Silver lining? I suppose. I would have liked to have worked on that job.
So July. The job in Mexico had gotten into a smooth rhythm. We had some adventures on our weekends. Then I got a call that my dad had taken a serious downturn and would probably die in the next 48 hours. And he did. My dad had been in a nursing home facility for years as he had alzheimer's. He also had heart issues and was 83 when he died, so it wasn't entirely unexpected, though a death is always a shock, even when you know it's coming.
The team in Mexico was supportive and helpful, of course. At the end of July, I flew back to LA for a night, then Kurt and I flew to the Big Island for a week, helping with the funeral plans and reminiscing. We stayed at the hotel at Anaeho'omalu Beach, which was perfect. It is the beach I know so well on the Big Island, have known it since I was so little, where we used to go before there was a hotel. Also, let's be honest, so happy to be in air conditioning. Waikoloa is H O T in August.
It was a fascinating time, learning more about my dad, hearing others talk about him, people who knew him in a totally different way than I did. We all told stories and looked through old pictures all while playing the Keola and Kapono records, shouting out the words to Mr. Sun Cho Lee. (He got plenty lychee!)
It was also surreal to be with my sisters and stepmom and nieces and nephew in dad's house, all there without dad. All the emotions were heightened, of course, the grief hitting us all in different ways. There were tears and laughter and plenty of shouting and hurt feelings, all the usual family stuff. At one point Dor turned to me and said, "How can you be so calm?" I just shrugged and said, "That's what I do. That's what I've always done." Then added, "Hand me another beer..."
There's my dad. The Don Draper of Honolulu. (Who later moved to the Big Island.)
The day after the funeral, we scattered his ashes from canoes at Anaeho'omalu Bay. The water was calm and the experience quite new for me on a variety of levels.
Then a big aloha to Hawai'i and back to Mexico for me. I was really glad to have two overnights in LA on each side of that trip. Nice to sleep in my own bed and pet the cats.
There were three more weeks of the shoot in Mexico and I enjoyed the hell out of them. We went to Puebla for a few days as well as Cuernavaca. We had various locations that were a refreshing break from the sets at the abandoned quarry/mall. A friend from LA came down to hang out for a long weekend and we timed it for the two day weekend that had been scheduled (we were working half days on Saturdays). It was so nice to be a tourist with a good friend.
A giddiness started creeping into the crew as we got near the end. We were all still working hard, but laughing more and taking more pictures of each other. The crew went out one night for drinks and music and that was our non official wrap party and it was a blast. Then the real wrap party came and it was nice, but not as much fun. On the last day of shooting, when the first AD called "That's a wrap!" I, of course, burst into tears. What a long crazy summer it had been.
Adiós Mexico! Adiós Diana, my favorite statue in Mexico City. Hello LA...
Home. But not for long. At the end of September I'd be off to London to work with the VFX team for a few weeks, handing over the information from the shoot to the new producer. But before that, we were invited to a friend's beach house in Santa Barbara for Labor Day weekend. A wonderful few days of good friends and sitting on the beach and looking at the ocean. Soothing.
London. I got good at figuring out the bus schedule (cheaper/easier than the tube) and my little neighborhood in Clerkenwell where I stayed in the Zetter Hotel. Quite hipster cool at the time and so expensive that when my work was done and Kurt and I were staying a few days more, we found a cheap and therefore TINY room elsewhere. We played tourist, my favorite day being the one at Hampton Court Palace. (I love a good audio tour!)
Then for fun and also because you can, we took the train to Paris for three days where again, our friends were staying in their apartment and we spent a lot of good time with them.
Paris twice in one year? Man, that is a good year.
Home at the end of October. I was exhausted and charged with emotion and restlessness since I had been moving practically non stop since April.
There was one more trip and that was to Maui in early December with Kurt's family. They had never been so we enjoyed many touristy things, trips to Hana, up to Haleakala, ziplining, snorkeling, big hotel Luau, the whole nine yards.
Then home. HOME. A quiet Christmas on our own here in LA. Just us and the cats.
2006 was a roller coaster and I loved it all. I know that sounds strange since my dad died in the middle of it, but loving it all is just embracing all that life throws at you - the good, the bad, the easy, the tough - everything. I'm proud of that year. I doubt I'll have another quite like it. But I hope I do.
The Holidays were low key around here. After being home on Maui, it was nice to just relax at home for the holidays. Though there was a bit of wrapping/shipping frenzy before the actual holiday! I didn't take many photos, I think I just enjoyed being in the moment. Imagine that!
We were invited to my second cousin's house for a Christmas Eve party, which is something they've been doing in their family since her parents got married in 1958! Amazing that she's kept up the tradition. Makes me feel squishy about not having a tradition like that. Time to start making some! Harper enjoyed the party, so many kids to play with, and seemed to enjoy the piano a whole lot. She sat and played "Jazz improv" (as someone we were talking to said) for a while. The sheet music was a Christmas carol and there was a pencil on the little shelf. Harper would play then pick up the pencil and write on the music (something the other kids had been doing). She looked like a tiny composer working on a piece.
For our actual Christmas day, Harper got a stocking full of Pez, just as she had asked Santa for. She (and we) also got many wonderful gifts and were very grateful to all the Santas in our lives!
Every new year is full of promise and hope. I have many goals and plans, much of which continue through from last year, with a few new ones thrown in. I won't give you a list, I'll just summarize by saying there will be various short films that will be produced and distributed, scripts to finish and produce, a novel I'm planning on writing as well as financial and investing goals that will start this month.
Now that Harper is not so much a toddler, but a big girl, there will be travel to places other than Maui. Really excited about that!
And as ever, better health and fitness. I started a great fitness program last year and while various things took me away from it in December, I'm back on track today.
I have a lot on my plate and will stay focused. I pride myself in walking my talk and the year will reflect that.
Harper and I spent the last two weekends doing some traditional Fall activities. (Poor Kurt had to work.) First it was apple picking then a Fall Festival at the U-pick farm that we frequent throughout the year.
The apple farm we chose was Riley's Farm in Oak Glen. That's about a two hour drive without traffic. We got there right when they opened and thank goodness we did. It turned out to be the last day of apples (Granny Smiths) for the season and also pumpkin patch time for them.
We went first for apples.
Then wandered around the pumpkin patch before heading back to the Hawks Head Tavern for an early lunch of Ye Olde Grilled Cheese.
The food took a while so we made ourselves busy with selfies.
Finally, lunch was eaten and then it was time to make a speech.
We then left and I was so glad we'd gotten there early as the two lane road leading the farm was JAMMED on both sides for about 1/4 mile.
The next day we made apple pie. It was delicious! Before and After:
I look forward to going back to that farm next year earlier in the season to get some red apples.
I'm not the most crafty person in the world, don't know how to sew nor do I own a glue gun. But I actually made a Halloween Craft this year! Sewing and glue gun not required! It's small, only 10" around, but I love it. Harper helped me paint the snakes.
Today was all about the Pumpkin Situation at our regular farm Underwood Family Farm. They have a full on Fall Festival every October with rides and games and and food and music along with all their regular farm fun stuff.
The most fun for both of us was the Bean Box - an enclosed, shaded "Playpen" full of beans and various scoopers and cups. Harper could have stayed for hours. We were there for about 40 minutes. It was heaven.
This bad boy is parked in our neighborhood and it instantly brings me back to fun summer times on the Big Island.
My parents were divorced so in the summers I would visit my dad, stepmom and two older sisters. One summer we rented one of these Tioga RVs (not sure what the actual model was, but this seems close) and toured Volcano.
In my small kid memory we spent a week, but in reality it must have have been about 3 nights or so? Someone older than me is going to have to help me fill in the blanks! Also, I can't remember, did we do this one time or multiple times? I remember Jen being there but then I remember her not being there. (She didn't always come in the summers - long story on how my nuclear family breaks down.)
Anyway! The point is - happy memories. Kilauea caldera, Kilauea Iki, Chain of Craters road, Queen's Bath (Rest in Peace!), Kalapana black sand beach, bird park and of course Thurston Lava Tube. Night times were filled with eating at pic-nic tables and singing John Denver songs to Dor's guitar.
My dad had hearing loss/damage from work he did in WWII (This is my understanding, of course I could be mistaken). He used hearing aids, but still had issues with hearing. Most times I think he had issues with paying attention, but that's another theory... Dad's lack of hearing was just another aspect of him, like he wore glasses and was a good swimmer. But I never really got what his hearing loss was like until one day on this trip we went to Kipuka Puaulu (Bird Park) to walk the mile loop trail. Dad, in his tour guide way, announced that on this trail we would hear a lot of birds singing and that many were endangered native birds of Hawai'i. At some point on our walk Dad said something like "Wow, there really aren't many birds in here at all." I remember someone saying "There are tons of birds singing" I was thinking the same thing. And it dawned on me that Dad couldn't hear them at all and that made me sad for him.
Black Sand Beach was a great local stop for us to get out of the RV and go body surfing and swimming. Queens Bath was the same, but more magical as it really felt like a place Pele built especially. Sadly, both are gone. Queen's Bath in 1987 and Kalapana Black Sand beach in 1990. Pele clearly needed to start over.
Look how enchanted this spot was. I'm so sad I can't take Harper there.
But the best memory of all was having Lucy along for all the fun. She walked the trails with us and body surfed at Black Sand Beach (She really did!) and swam in Queen's Bath. Mostly though, she hogged the front seat of the Tioga. I miss that Lucy, she was one in a million.
I think fondly of the RV trip (trips?) and actually fantasize about doing our own some day. But oooh, it will be so much easier with just the three of us!
I live in Los Angeles. In the summer of 2006 I worked in Mexico City. Instead of sending out giant emails full of photos to friends and families, I started this blog. The summer turned out to be a crazy one and this blog and my camera kept me sane. I didn't want to stop observing and writing when I got home to LA, so I kept the blog going.