Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Black and Blue Dramedy Tour

Rogue Valley Roasting Company
Vegan Pumpkin Bread

This past December 31st, my grandfather past away.  We had known he was sick, and we've been planning a long-haul trip with the boys down to SoCal in March so they could meet him while there was still time.  There was supposed to be more time.  But there was a secondary infection that was found too late and we lost him.  He was 88 years-old and he lived an amazing, full life.  It's hard to complain, to say he should have had more time, but still, we wished he'd had more.

So, we were able to wrangle a few extra days off at the last minute so that I could fly down for the service this past weekend.  (This was decided before I remembered, Oh, yeah, I'm terrified of flying.)  If you read the "Recalculating..." post from last year, when I did a long, crazy drive down to SoCal to attend my step-grandmother's memorial service, you'll know what I mean when I say this trip was in much the same spirit.  I overpacked again - and since everything I threw in had to be a possible candidate for funeral-ware, I ended up with a suitcase full of exclusively black and blue clothing.  Hence, I dubbed this trip from the outset The Black and Blue Dramedy Tour.

I almost didn't get the rental car - I shouldn't have, but I was able to walk that fine line with the managers when I was appealing my case: respectful, somewhat stricken and definitely stranded, but with enough supporting arguments and documentation to convince them - very reluctantly - to go through with the reservation.  Fortunately, this time around, I didn't get the car towed.  And I finally made it to Griffith Observatory - but not without paying a price for the detour (p.s. fuck you, 210 freeway - fuck you).

I arrived about 2 minutes before the start of the service the next day.

Every time I head anywhere near the town where I grew up, I get Steely Dan stuck in my head: "And I'm never going back to my old school..."  Weirdly enough, someone from my old school found me after the service.  And I saw family I haven't seen in years, including my father (who instilled in me a love of Steely Dan).  Inside the church, I had sat behind him with my stepmom and had had that horrible insight that someday I would be in the front pew with my siblings and I would have to go through this for him.  I suppose every child must have that same thought under the same circumstances.

And then I remembered how annoyingly healthy my father is and I reassured myself that he's going to outlive the cockroaches and there's no need to think about that right now.


When my mother turned sixty a few years ago, I called her up and asked, gently, "So... how are you doing?"  She was taking it fine, though I found out that my brother had called her up and asked outright if she had cried.  When my father turned sixty a little later, I called him and asked how he felt to be sixty.  He said he felt twenty-five.  Damn it, I said.  "I didn't feel 25 when I was 25."

But that's my dad.  The brilliant, unconventional thinker who looks like the long-lost lovechild of Leonard Nimoy and Alan Alda and who will outlive the apocalypse.  I hope.

Anyway.  I eventually found my way back to my grandparent's house - the house I had grown up in, though they had not been living there with us for most of that time.

I made it back there by muscle memory past changed facades and new construction.  I didn't know Caterpillar Canyon could fit so much salable real estate.  The mountains across the valley are the same, though there's too many damn hedges now to call it the same view.  And I remember more snow on the peaks, especially in January.  Though I had been so unhappy in that house when I was young, it feels completely benign now.  Warm, even.  But it hasn't been my house in a long time.

Going back is wonderful and completely sucks.  I was reminded of how much love is available if I just reach out for it, even if it dwells in hearts hundreds or thousands of miles away.  But I was reminded, too, of how different I thought I would be by now.  I had feared getting stuck, but I didn't think I would feel this destroyed.

I think it's easy to forget how much potential and how much worth we possess when we look around and see only where we are.

My grandfather was a tremendous person, with a booming laugh that embarrassed his children in movie theaters.  He was a bass section unto himself in the church choir.  He took me to see my first concerts at the L.A. Philharmonic, and I ache at the thought that I can never sing with him now.  He had an insatiable thirst for learning and continued to accumulate professional credentials, in psychology and in religion, throughout his life.  So many people stood to tell stories of his compassion and acceptance and encouragement, whether he touched their lives through the ministry or psychodrama or his crossword troupe.

It feels daunting to imagine trying to live up to such an amazing person.  I feel so far from that right now, though if I can track my time by his lifeline, I've got a good 52 years to catch up.  What gives me some solace is the thought that, with all the lives he touched, there should be more than enough of us to each contribute some small measure of goodness to the world, and, altogether, we might just amend for his absence.

With love, and gratitude...