Today it’s been 14 years since my dad died, and in most ways, it seems like longer than that. I’ve done a lot of living – maybe too much? – in those 14 years. But I can still hear his voice in my head, and I can still feel the hug he gave me in our driveway before I left to drive to Seattle for graduate school, in September of 2002. Burg would be 87 now, and I’m sort of glad I never had to see him diminished by old age – or, at least, not more than he was diminished in his last weeks, as cancer had its way with him. He would be glad to know that Mom and I now live a block apart, within sight of Puget Sound, and that one night in August, when things felt hard and I needed comfort, I pulled out an old t-shirt of his that I’d kept all this time but never worn, a royal blue Classen Grill t-shirt with the logo on the back and the words “peaches and cream” written in four languages on the front. It still smelled like him, and I put it on and slept in it, and I felt better. Wherever he is, I hope he’s doing it up right, as he was in this photo (he’s on the left, with family friend Ed Fretwell on the right), drinking something boozy out of a plastic coupe in a swimming pool, eating well, and grinning about it.
(By the way, as a kid, I was terrified of that pool cleaning device you see in the background, which propelled itself slowly and menacingly around, dragging its long tube of a tail. I half-expected to hear the Jaws theme song every time I got into the Fretwells’ pool. Burg and Ed clearly did not share my fear.)
Speaking of fear: I should have known, knowing this community, that I had no reason to be afraid when I wrote the previous post. I don’t understand it, but you have always been so good to me, and this post was no exception. I’ve read every single comment, most of them more than once, and I want to thank you, a million times over, for your understanding and kindness. What I’ve experienced is something that even I struggle to understand, and your compassion felt like a lot to ask or even hope for. But you offered it to me anyway. I am honored and astounded by what this site has become, and that has as much to do with you as it does with me.
A reader named Rosemary – hi, Rosemary! – left a link in the comments to the poem “Failing and Flying,” by Jack Gilbert. I’d not seen before, and if you’ve not seen it either, I recommend you go take a look. It’s so good and so wise. Thank you, Rosemary.
A couple of other good things: the writer Zadie Smith on Fresh Air, and longtime LGBTQ activist Cleve Jones, too. When I was a kid and my family was doing volunteer work for the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which Jones founded, his name came up often. Cleve Jones was a hero and a celebrity in our household, and I’m glad he’s still out there, fighting the good fight.
And last but not least, a holiday cookies episode of Spilled Milk! With a warning: we recorded this before the presidential election, so prepare to weep copiously when we express optimism about its outcome.
Thank you again. And again and again.