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We Bring Our Son’s Unspoken Absence With Us Everywhere We Go

This past Sunday was Father’s Day. It was my third without the son who made me a father.

There was a time when I reveled in my fatherhood. I had some epic times on Father’s Day courtesy of my son Jake’s immensely generous spirit and boundless imagination. We also had boys’ days throughout the years — times for him and me to hang together, play catch at the park, go to a ball game, launch rockets, golf, shoot pistols, have lunch or just chill. Those days are long gone; there will be no more of them.

We recently returned from a trip north for the wedding of the daughter of long-time friends. The wedding took place on her mother’s “farmette,” a gorgeous property near Sebastopol, California. Lovely late afternoon ceremony by the pond, spectacular reception “on the lahwn” with dining, dancing, speeches, music and general revelry.

As expected, for us, it was a bittersweet time. Intermixed with the joy we felt for the bride and groom was the constant tug on our hearts from our son’s absence and the knowledge we would never dance at his wedding.

As we sat at our table with old friends and some new faces, somehow the topic of “your passion” came up. We went around the table with everyone describing their passions. As the discussion got nearer to me, I began to panic. What was my passion? Well, once it was my son and my family. Now… Mercifully, we were interrupted by the speech from the bride’s father just as my neighbor finished her spiel.

I was never a person who knew what they wanted to do at an early age. I somewhat envy those who do know and pursue their goals with the single-minded purpose that has always eluded me. I have done many things throughout my life, but the moment Jake was born, I felt my purpose on earth had been fulfilled. I finally had a passion to pursue.

I didn’t have a close relationship with my father, and I vowed I wouldn’t replicate that with my son. I would devote myself to forging the relationship with Jake I would have liked to have had with my dad. And I did. Jake and I had a marvelously close relationship. I rejoiced in Jake, watched him grow into a wonderful person — talented, imaginative, caring, brilliant, empathetic, funny, resourceful, creative, all the things one wishes for one’s child.

I always said Jake was the very best thing I ever did. Our family was strong and vital. Even though we went through the absolute worst of trying times together toward the end, we all knew we loved each other, no matter what.

Then one day nearly three years ago — poof. It all vanished in a puff of smoke.

I ask myself daily, “Now what?” I am struggling to regain a purpose of direction, a passion for anything. As I have remarked before, my emotion-o-meter is stuck on 4. (Until it plunges to negative 100 on occasion. That happens more infrequently than it has, but it still happens.)

We managed to extend our trip north into a mini-vacation. We originally planned a three-week road trip all the way to Seattle and back, but had to truncate that due to our cat Dudley’s illness and impending surgery. We stayed with a friend in Santa Rosa for the wedding festivities, then drove south along the Sonoma Coast through San Francisco to Los Gatos to visit other friends who also lost their adult son to a tragic accident some years ago.

We sat with them and talked about our loss, our progress or, in some cases, our lack of progress. We continued down the California coast the following day driving the storied Route 1 through Carmel and Big Sur to Cambria, along some of the most breathtaking shoreline scenery anywhere. Stayed in Cambria overnight and spent my birthday by the ocean, wine tasting in Paso Robles and driving home.

It was lovely but still lukewarm. There is always something missing, and I know what it is. The unspoken absence we bring with us everywhere we go. There is no escape, no matter how beautiful the scenery, how good the wine is, nor how fresh the seafood. He is always with us.

So it’s back to the grind. The daily routine — 20 million things to do, and sometimes all I can do is think about Jake and what might have been. All the might-have-beens.

I am preparing for surgery of my own — I’m getting some new hips. That provides somewhat of a distraction from the day-to-day routine. And it’s still just that. Day. To. Day. One at a time, yet I plan for a limited future. At least three weeks into the future when I go under the knife. I guess that is progress of sorts — the admission that there will be a future.

We are also tempted by the beauty of Sonoma County to chuck it all, cash in our chips and head north. Shake the dust of Los Angeles and all the memories that cling to this house and trade it in for a new life. We’ll see if we can manage that.

Follow this journey on The Infinite Fountain.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images