They Aren’t Really Dead

The clock says it is 11 PM and Party Rock is playing on the stereo. The shuffle is on so I end up listening to a melange of music that includes opera, rock, rap and country.

My Droid sits quietly next to me. The sound is off but the flashing light attracts my attention. I haven’t picked it up yet because I don’t want to get lost in the mighty mess we call email. That is because I have six or seven addresses that forward messages to the phone and since I haven’t checked it in hours I know it is going to be a mess.

The phone lies on top of a parking ticket I received a few weeks ago. It irks me to see it. $60 bucks that I have to give to the city because I was three minutes too slow in getting back to the car and meter.

I told Shonali to keep an eye peeled for my annual post about why I hate Valentine’s Day but I haven’t managed to write it yet. Don’t ask me why it hasn’t happened yet because I am not really sure why. I am sort of curious because it makes me wonder if there is something lying just below the surface that I need to explore and think about.

The music has changed and now I am listening to Coldplay sing Paradise. It is another song that my children love. We listen to it together…often. Music is a constant in our lives. I tell them that music and books are two of the great pleasures of living.

They nod their heads and I tell them that daddy wishes he could be a musician. The dark haired beauty wants to know if that means I would be a rock star and I say “maybe.”

It is not something that I have always wanted, thought about or experienced in my dreams. This wish or desire materialized a few years back. I think it is because of the stories I see in my head. It is tied into a desire to create. Creation is something that I think of often. If I could I would be a great painter and photographer.

All of it ties into stories. I haven’t always called myself a writer or a storyteller but I think that at my core this is what and who I am.

Everywhere I go and everyone I meet is part of a story. Sometimes I watch, listen, look and learn while they tell me their stories. I alternate between being the life of the party and the wallflower. It is easy for me to step into either role. They are both comfortable but I prefer to live my life in between them.

Tomorrow is my nephew’s birthday. He’ll be twelve. That is a magical age for a boy. You are still young enough to get lost in some of the dreams of younger youth but old enough to do things far beyond your years.

I’ll call him tomorrow and wish him a very happy birthday and then I’ll remind him that he is always under Uncle Jack’s protection. It is tied into an old joke that his younger sister sometimes asks about.

But he knows that I am serious. It applies to all of my family but doubly so to my kids, nieces and nephews.

I once told a girl who loved me the same thing. I once promised her much and more. That is part of what love does to you. It changes you. When you find the right person it moves and motivates you in ways that are often described as magical and mysterious.

Magical and mysterious is a reasonable description for it but at the same time it doesn’t work for me because somethings are “obvious” and they just “are.” Again when you find the right person you understand magical, mysterious, obvious and are in ways that others can’t.

It feels strange to not have any grandparents any more. For 42 years they were a constant in my life and a fixture that I miss terribly. I always knew that the day would come when they would be gone but it doesn’t seem real and sometimes I find myself looking and or listening for them.

Last Saturday morning we had our official daddy/daughter day and I took the dark haired beauty down to Farmer’s Market. We drove across Laurel Canyon surrounded by the Hollywood Hills and past the ruins of Harry Houdini’s house. At the end of the canyon we passed by the apartment that one set of my grandparents lived in for thirty some years or so.

They may have spent the last ten years or so of their life living elsewhere, but that building will forever be their home to me. Drove past and listened for the echoes of my grandfather standing on the balcony calling down to us. I could hear his voice and smell his cigar but I couldn’t quite see him.

Fairfax isn’t the same as it used to be but it is still filled with more than a few memories. The high school may be known for alumni like Demi Moore and The Red Hot Chili Peppers but to me it is where my father, uncle and other relatives went.

I haven’t been back to Farmer’s Market since The Grove muscled its way in. It holds a million other memories. The parking lot where my father learned to drive called out to me as did other ghosts of my past. Farmers is where my paternal grandfather and his cronies used to hang out.

Twenty years ago I would have found them playing cards and telling the same old stories about World War II and Korea. Sometimes you’d see a couple of the old birds do more than bark at each other. They’d slowly stand up and start promising to kick the crap out of the other.

Once when grandpa was in his mid eighties another fellow started up with him and I saw lightning flash in grandpa’s eyes. I watched as he stood up and for a moment I saw the years fall back and the man who stood there was someone much younger that I had never seen but only heard about.

Grandpa took his cane and quietly placed it on the table and stood unaided. I wasn’t sure what my role was to be but I wasn’t going to embarrass my grandfather by standing up or trying to shush him. I knew that he knew I was there so I sat and watched.

The other man muttered something and shuffled away. I don’t really know what set the two of them off. Could have been something that happened 60 years earlier or five minutes. It was just a moment in time and part of a story you are reading now.

Tom Sawyer is playing now. It is the song by Rush and doesn’t have anything to do with the book but it makes me think of other things. Huck and Tom are running around together and it won’t be long before Huck takes his raft down the mighty Mississippi.

That is probably a good sign that it is time for me to end this post. There are more tales to be told and stories to be learned. And somewhere close by there are sleeping children to be checked on.

Life is ever so sweet with bits and pieces of the bittersweet and spicy root that make it so memorable.

This is part of the Just Write Project. This is week #22 and as always I am both glad and grateful to participate in it.

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  1. Hajra February 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    You did end up with the perfect Valentine’s Day .. didn’t you?

    And yes, here’s to my favorite Daddy Daughter’s Days..oh, how I miss them myself 🙁

  2. Deena Fischer February 14, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Great post Jack. My brain jumps from story to story the same way. It’s hard for other people to keep up… I miss my grandparents every day though they’ve been gone almost a decade. Some of the best love stories I’ve ever heard… Here’s my valentine’s post (though I posted it earlier in the week…):

  3. Mark February 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I agree with @Betsy – this was a Valentine’s post; actually story – and wonderfully told as well Jack 🙂

    Happy Valentines Day!

  4. Jayme Soulati February 14, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Oh, Valentine, please stop this nonsense about the dead.
    You’re making my mood swing over to Fred.

    I’d rather share a chocolate kiss with you or something more…
    Do you have any ideas in store?

    I promise your day of Cupid hearts will be sugar and roses and smarts.

  5. Betsy Cross February 14, 2012 at 1:04 am

    I think you DID write a Valentine’s post. Perfect.

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