We are moving forward. Slowly, but forward. Calm.
The better days in a long and difficult month have been the quiet days when our energy wasn’t tapped to make decisions or aid in the memorial planning. Jay and I, sitting for hours either reading or listening to music, or truly just sitting, didn’t need words. We understood each other.
He has lost a son. No words necessary.
Yet other times words simply leave me puzzled.
Soon after Jeffrey died, one friend addressed Aimee, expressing sadness directly to her for the loss of a brother. I was right there–I must have been invisible. It has been my experience that even those who have known me the entirety of my marriage have little understanding of the unique role of step-parent.
I have experienced a profound loss, too. I’ve always said that Jeffrey and I grew up together.
I was so young! I married at 19 years old, having known Jay not a day more than six months. He had two children and his divorce was so fresh we had to wait for the ink to dry. And I wondered why my parents thought this wasn’t a good idea?
He had primary custody of 7-year old Jeffrey, and his 3-year old daughter was living with mom, sixty miles away. There were “every-other-weekend” logistical issues to navigate, financial disagreements, and near-daily shots fired across the bow for one reason or another.
And the children? Well, in my ignorance, if they were clothed and fed, provided transportation to school and homework supervision, and generally kept safe–parenting mission accomplished!
It took many years to understand how much more children really need to feel nurtured. I am very fortunate that I can recall many conversations where Jeff and I forgave each other for any limitations. I developed patience with him, and through the years he many times thanked me for adding stability to his life. He was generous.
There are funny memories, too.
I remember stepping out the back door and finding him prone, face down in the dirt with arms and legs outstretched, and doing what? “I want to know what it feels like to be a bug. Like in my collection.”
I hope I at least said something encouraging his inquisitive nature.
He was also stubborn. One morning he refused to get out of bed, announcing he couldn’t move. This didn’t sit well with me and I started drilling down. He was adamant that he had awakened paralyzed. He was eight or nine, and I was at my wits end. I tried all the reverse psychology I had at my disposal and when that didn’t work,moved to threats. Nothing worked. Sometime late in the day he miraculously improved.
Over the last month we’ve recalled many stories from the difficult years, but we’ve also laughed a lot at some of the funniest memories.
There was the time a highway patrol officer pulled him over for speeding. He argued with the officer that it wasn’t his fault because there was so much fog he couldn’t see his speedometer. We gave him points for creativity and then took away the car.
He figured out how to swat at bees and render them briefly inactive. Then he’d tie silk thread to them and carry them into the classroom where he’d release them–tethered to his “leash,” creating classroom havoc. The school had us on speed dial.
Not long after high school he found work on the island of Oahu, and spent most of his adult years in an environment he truly loved. He did miss family, but he loved surfing and living an island life. It fit his need for freedom.
He returned to Southern California about five years ago as he began to have some health problems. He wanted to be near family again.
So it was fitting that a life-long surfer be returned to the Pacific Ocean he loved.
Paddle-Outs are surfing’s most hallowed ritual and follow the tradition of many ancient cultures. Today would have been Jeff’s 55th birthday, and so, yesterday, family and surfing friends gathered at one of his SoCal surfing spots and we witnessed this solemn and meaningful goodbye.
Aloha, Jeffrey William.