Tuesday, April 28, 2009


My apologies, first of all - and mostly to myself - for staying away for so long. I find myself curiously reluctant to write sometimes. I suppose that might be because I'm not as eager for introspection as I think I am. Or perhaps it's because I'm less eager for sharing. Or because I still wonder what this is and is going to be.

I'm also just plain tired.

I tend to stay up too late at night. Not because I'm doing anything in particular, but because when I put my head to the pillow I want to be sure that I will fall asleep immediately. I don't care much for laying awake; I don't want to think. Enough of that for now.

Tonight's post is about grapes. Frozen grapes. When frozen, grapes - red or green - become lovely little sherbet-like gems. Tart. Sweet. Cool. Refreshing. They were one of the staples of Aida's diet for the last several weeks of her life. She loved them and asked for them often; they met her thirst, cooled her mouth and throat, satisfied her sweet tooth, and gave her overall snacking pleasure at any time of the day or night.

In the final days, I peeled them for her; the skins had become difficult to swallow. We each took turns with a baggie or a freezer bowl of the icy tart delights at Aida's bedside. Grapes. Please.

Tonight I was washing a glass at the kitchen sink and looked to the left on the counter. A freezer Ziploc bowl and companion baggie lay thawing on the counter. One held red grapes and the other green.

It took me a moment, but I realized that these were what was left of the grapes that we fed to Aida in her final days. These were what remained of pleasure's memory. I had left them in the freezer, seeing them as often as I dip in to the ice machine bucket where they had been kept for quick freezing (returned there as soon as Aida was finished with each snack session on the sweet globes).

I knew they were there and each time I saw them I thought to retrieve them. But I couldn't do it.

It's really the small things. The details. The absence of grapes and an empty drawer where once were her socks is so much more final than a cold urn of ashes could ever be.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Comes After

Today I spent in the company of a group of extraordinary people, a self-identified "tribe" of artists. These were Aida's people. And they have become mine as well. As different and deeply complex as seasons, these individuals create a world of possibility for themselves and for the communities in which they live and work. Like Aida, they are public artists and layer the external world with meaning and potential for all of us. I am honored and delighted to be named with them. Family. Tribe. Commune and crucible.

But all this has come at a price.

In many ways, I am now engaging as my own self in ways that I would not otherwise have done except for the experiences of these last months, including the death of my wife. I am who I am this afternoon writing this because of who I have been. I am gathered into the center of a new family of parents, siblings, cousins, and children precisely because they are the source of Aida; the holiday meals and dance of relation is now my ritual too.

In the same way, the tribe of creators and meaning makers is now my tribe, and that is also because of Aida. She gathered me to her mind and vision where we spoke a similar language and then created one of our own. We needed no translation. She introduced me to her people. And in their center I hear new words and imagine new worlds and think new thoughts that please me in the simple thinking of them. I am reminded that there even are new worlds.

This is a precious gift that remembers me to her, deepening the reach of her soul's taproot to mine.

I also find myself wondering if I might have come to this place in time with her by my side. Like everything else, it is impossible to know. I am still struggling to understand that the world moves on its own way without her and that I seem to have a place in it. I don't know where or who I might have been, nor who I am -- only that I am continuing. Becoming.

Tribe. Commune. Crucible.

Are We There Yet?

Today, a first and a continuation.

First, the first. My first pedicure. It was wonderful. And so was the massage. And the facial. Still, all in all, not the sort of thing I'd bother with on a blog (considering the glut of minutiae posted every millisecond), but it's one of those events that fall in the "after Aida" category. It occurs to me that there will be a lot more of those. I hate that.

Then out for an evening event hosted by our LGBT Center (that I am honored to serve as a member of the board of directors). It's an annual event that honors women in the community for excellence in a wide variety of fields, from the Arts to Education, to Philanthropy, to Politics and Law. Last year Aida was honored in the Arts category. She spoke eloquently and after the event, we retired to a room at the resort where the event was held. A beautiful room. A beautiful night. And the next day, a delicious breakfast and a luxurious nap on the luxurious furniture. All afternoon.

Tonight's event was well done, and enjoyable. The women who were honored were well deserving of the acknowledgement they received. I had a good time. I laughed. I spent time with friends. I only cried twice. A success, in my estimation.

And on the way home I realized again that everything I do, as strange as this may sound to anyone but me, is an effort to bring Aida back to me. To somehow conjure her again in the solid real world. I don't know exactly why or how attending a semi-formal event honoring lesbians of high acheivement in the community would somehow cast the necessary spell, but there you have it.

I looked for her along every street and wanted to believe ... again. I think this is just how it goes.

I am constantly battling the thought that some day I will finally make it; that I will finally pass the test, do the just right thing, finally perform well enough and someone will yell "Congratulations! You've made it!" And all will finally be well. All that is broken will be mended. All that has been lost to me will be restored. And that my heart and my soul will be returned to me. I can't stop thinking that maybe, just maybe around the next corner, if I do it just right, I will finally arrive.

And that it will all be over. That someone or something will make it all better.

I'm still looking.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's Not You, It's Me

Today's PSA: It's Not You, It's Me

I cry a lot. I just do. I think it can be likened to the way that infants cry. They just do. Something about clearing toxins from the body. And it's an effective, if not always efficient or eloquent, way to communicate that something is wrong.

For me, I cry because I have a dark stone on my chest. I think that makes it hard to breathe and maybe I need to make the extra effort. Besides, it hurts.

And that's me. You ... well ... you don't make me cry. Even when you ask me how I am and then listen when I tell you. Or when you tell me a little story about Aida. Or tell me that you miss her too. You don't make me cry even when you cry. Honestly, I'm crying anyway. Sometimes with no warning and in the middle of an activity that has every appearance of being enjoyable.

It just happens. A word will float by. A flash of her face, her smile. A scent on the wind. I'll hear a sound ... birds or laughter or the foghorn blaatting in the dark of late hours from the harbor. I'll just remember that she is not where she is supposed to be.

And I cry. It just happens. And it's okay. It's so much better than not crying, to tell you the truth. Every tear, as my poet friend Diane wrote, does its part to dissolve the stone.

So the point is, please let me cry. Help me to make a space for it. It's okay. You can talk about it. It helps. You don't have to ignore it or feel badly as if somehow you created the sadness. You didn't. It's there anyway.

It's me.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

There's Good News and Bad News

It occurred to me sometime during the last months of Aida's life that, in general, we just don't pay attention to the obvious: That "till Death Do Us Part" means that one of us is going to die before the other one. One of us is going to go first.

Obvious, right? Simple, right? And just unbelievably difficult to understand. To (in a word of the 70s) grok.

Aida and I had the chance to talk about this odd turn more than once and more than once remarked on its essential strangeness. I remember realizing -- and telling her -- that when two people throw in with each other for the long haul it means that one of the two is going to go first; someone is going to make the way for the other.

Somewhere between November and December, it had become painfully clear that all that chatter about the parts "Until Death" and "'till I die" and blahblahblah ... was real. Oh my god.

I guess somewhere deep down I didn't think anyone really meant that part of it. I didn't think we were supposed to actually follow through on the whole "Death" thing. I mean really, what kind of a messed up system is that??

And so, my friends and fellow travelers, the good news may be that you have found a shelter and a home for your heart in the sweet arms of someone unbearably dear to you.

The bad news is that means someone is going to go first.

I think my Aida is crafting a most marvelous map for me; I'm going to need it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

No Joke

Today I had an early Easter with the Family and friends. Four generations of them. And four generations of love and laughing and good food and holiday traditions that I'm just now getting the hang of; I'm still shaking the confetti out of my hair (and I'll leave you with that for now).

I'll write more later about the experience of being a one-who-used-to-be-two in the midst of such comfort and silliness, but for now, the subject of the post:

Aida's mother.

While listening to Aida's dad tell me a story of something or other about Aida's mom, he very naturally and easily referred to her as "your mother-in-law."

So good. I feel so good.

Goodnight, Dad. Goodnight, Mom.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

That Pesky Question

You know the one: "How can I help?" or its kissing cousin "What can I do?" -- a pesky and problematic question that seems to need a response, but is so often ... well ... unanswerable. And everyone knows it.

The only question more difficult - and common - is "How are you?"

Don't get me wrong. I understand and acknowledge that these questions are deeply meaningful and evidence of great care and concern on the part of the person asking. It's just that I (I won't speak for everyone else deep in the Grief Pit) often haven't got a clue. Or, as in the case of "How are you", I *do* have a clue and really, I'm thinking that most people really don't want to know.

That said ... re: the "What can I do?" question. I finally have an answer.

Interesting that it took me until halfway through Aida's memorial service reception before I figured it out (and we'd been on the ride since mid-2006), but I felt so good to have finally understood what it was that I really really for real want you to do.

And here it is.

Just love me. No strings. I want for you to send a card, or an email, or leave a message on my voicemail. A text. Picture mail. Poke me on Facebook (if the redesign still allows you to do that) Something. I want you to do something at least once a week to tell me that you're thinking about me. That you haven't forgotten about me or about Aida. That you care. Even that you love me.

And that you don't expect me to answer you right away. Not yet. And that you'll wait for me to surface and *then* we'll go to coffee/a movie/a bike ride/a mini-vacation/road trip/just sit.

I want you to do that and I want you to not stop just because I don't answer you right away.

Like I told a friend recently bereaved himself, all the love and none of the pressure.

Just keep reminding me that you care.

In the meanwhile, between the deep and the surface, I have to figure out when it's really okay to empty her sock drawer.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bienvenidos Template

Changed the template for this freaking effing blog. We shall see if that makes it any more attractive to come home to.

My thought has been to explore the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life -- and that is to lose my wife - the love of my life - to cancer just over two months ago.

It has occurred to me that no one is writing handbooks for us queer folk on how to manage this thing. I mean, fer crissakes, we aren't even sure how to do weddings, let alone funerals and every single bone crushing day afterwards.

Here in California, last summer was an amazing flurry of lovelovelove with wedding after wedding after wedding after wedding. It was glorious. By the end of it in November (thank you electorate), just as we were figuring out the timing on sending invitations with the "M_____ sends regrets/will attend ..." tiny little insert card in them we got kicked in the collective rear. Turns out we don't need that kind of information anymore. At least, not for the next little while.

And in the meanwhile, my beloved wife died as I lay draped on her chest listening to the last breaths she would ever take on this earth.

So, what do you think of the template? Too moody?