Between routine and randomness there is tradition. Tradition is what pulls the scattered pieces of our lives together and provides us with a sense of belonging and togetherness. We find ourselves in the simple moments that we share with those we love. It’s in the aroma of mom’s pot roast dinners on a cold wintery night, it’s in grandpa’s instructions on the right way of tying a fly, it’s watching the kids on summer days playing at the same beach I once played at as a kid. It’s in the stories the old ones tell about what it was like in the olden days. It’s baked into grandma’s secret peach pie recipe. It’s in keeping memories alive while pairing yesterday with today for the young ones——these are the things that we hand down—-it’s in the reverence of those who’ve passed on and the gift of those tomorrows yet to come.

We’re lured back to the sea, to the beginnings, where it all started. Standing at the edge of this vast American continent, thousands  of lonely miles traveled beyond the stifling east coast, across Great Plains, over the mighty Rockies, beyond the Great Divide, down the Mississippi River, across the Grand Canyon, riding the Colombia River, leading us here——It’s here, the end of everything and the beginning of all new things——what a beautiful journey this life has been.

Salty air on the tip of my tongue, the smell of Eucalyptus trees, the fog rolls in, recedes, then once again comes and goes. Time is a circle, love a straight line fading into infinity. The Pacific Ocean crashes foamy waves in front of me, leaving seaweed, driftwood and seashells scattered at the high tide mark. Like people and the remnants they leave behind. This sea is the womb of mother nature, the place where life was unexpectantly given birth. If eternity had a scent it would be found in the pungent smell of the ocean . We carry the rhythm of her waves in our pulse. 

My family has been coming to this seaside village for generations. I would love to stay here forever, but traditions aren’t meant to be kept, they are intended to be passed on to those still unfolding and finding their own way. It’s at these yearly seaside get-togethers that the young ones learn from where they’re come and what they’re a part of. I’ve been looking for god, but I’ve discovered she has always been here in my friends and family. 

We take our early morning walks out on the old wooden wharf. Somewhere on the planks below, Harbor Seals bark as seagulls circle and fight over scraps . The fog brings us in closer to one another. We have our favorite restaurant with its buttered sourdough bread that’s dipped in a bowl of steaming clam chowder. We scour the nick-knack shops for the perfect keep-sakes. At night we go to the boardwalk with its Big Dipper roller coaster. The young ones raise their arms high in the air as their car careens down the steep winding track. Everything is a blur of bright lights, screams, clammer and electrifying commotion. The old ones go into the confection shop where taffy can be seen stretching like a long string of rubber. Behind the glass a woman is creating gooey homemade chocolate clusters. If one is lucky or skilled enough to knock down lead milk bottles with a baseball, for a moment you can be someones hero—-for five dollars that’s a bargain. We are all kids here once again. Even the oldest and the youngest can ride the Carousel. The Calliope blares out old time songs as we stretch out from our pumping horses to grab the brass rings that we toss at the Clown’s mouth. It’s all bright lights, dizzying motion, loud laughter and the smell of caramel corn—— all incased in the dampness of the ocean’s night air.

We’re always coming back to where we’ve always been, simply sharing time together——-and such is tradition. 

Father-Son-Mother —(A Letter To Me)

Soundtrack “Colors” by Amos Lee

I have few regrets, but I sometimes feel a sadness when I think how you and I were never able to connect or understand one-another.  Perhaps Freud was right, that we become who we are at a very early age and we find ourselves locked into a fixed script.  And sometimes this makes it difficult to express the things that go unsaid. So, I want to say this, having you as my son has been and always will be the finest of gifts.  My favorite memories is the time spent doing little everyday things with you and your sister.  It’s funny, how it’s all the small things that comprise a full life.  I try my best to remember this in each draining moment.

I see pieces of me in you and I wonder if you see parts of you in me.  These days, I just carry little pieces of you from a distant past.  There are memories of that little baby I once held.  Then there’s the little boy whose hand I’d hold on walks in the woods. I carry the memory of teaching you how to tie your shoes and how to ride a bicycle.  Summer drives in grandpa’s truck down country roads lined with peach tree’s and blossoming almond orchards. Sharing holiday dinners at Nana’s old wooden dinner table. Goofy face photographs. Days at the beach and neon lite nights at the boardwalk, the smell of fried corndogs and sticky cotton candy. Waking up to a snow day with no school and skiing on fresh powder. Hikes in the Sierras and the scent of campfire smoke, musty tents, penny ante poker, Monopoly and watching the family dog sleep next to you. And, then there was a teen boy in a hurry to go out and challenge the boundaries of his world. When I turn down all the outside noise, I find myself asking, where has all the time gone?

As hard as one may try, you can never bring your children home again.  They have their own dreams and troubles that they must navigate.  So, I fight the current of time and want to try to make right the things that I may have missed or failed to do.  The middle years of a man’s life can often times be wasted worrying about careers, bills and trying to make something of himself through hollow achievements. Such deceptive mirages we foolishly chase. 

It’s a strange thing, me and my dad never really saw eye to eye.  We were just different in ways neither could explain. But, I knew he loved me and would do anything for me.  He made sacrifices for me and my sisters that I never understood until I was much older.  In spite of it all, and buried beneath it all, we had a love that only a family can share.  I feel this love towards you and wanted you to know that.  And that’s the simple truth.

I remember when my mom passed away, and how at some weird level I was relieved.  This thought left me feeling guilty.  I vacillated between anger and a morose acquiescence as she became weak and frail. She never complained even though she was in a huge amount of pain and relying on morphine to stave off the misery.  I should have been braver and held her hand.  I should have told her how much I loved her and that she was the best mother I could ever of had.  I should have told her that if she needed to go, I understood and that she would always be missed.  I should have told her not to worry about me and that her family would be fine.  But I hid behind my fear, believing she must already know these things, pretending I’d still have time to say the things that needed to be said——-how fucking stupid was that.  

I apologize if this letter comes off awkward and overly forthright.  I suppose I wrote it as much for you, as for myself———You see, this letter is an exercise in trying to find ways to be more courageous with my love.  

“All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.” Ecclesiastes 3:20

What kind of holy book explains life and death in such a flippant manner? I don’t understand.

A thousand kisses deep–

She lives a thousand leagues under the sea at a place called Fountain Crest, it’s an assisted living facility, a rest home, an old folks home, a murky place at the bottom of the sea.  Above the surface life goes on with its bright lights and people racing around here to there, darting back and forth like a flock of frenzied seagulls scavenging through another days accumulation of garbage.  Up there time is cheap, everyone is preoccupied with getting their share as they squabble and fight, wearing out another precious moment, like tiny air bubbles under pressure, each moment bursts and then quietly disappears.

I drift past all the deep sea inhabitants who stare back at me with big exaggerated eyes behind thick fish eye lenses.  They wear homesick eyes like a child dropped off on the first day of school— lost watery eyes left wondering, “What am I doing here”, “Are they coming back for me”, “How will I ever get home again”.  They breath slowly, swaying in the invisible currents, circling aimlessly, going nowhere in particular.  Hands gripping railings, hands holding onto walkers, fingers strumming on a table in time with an old song no one else can hear.  Perhaps its The Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington or maybe Count Basie.  The big dance hall echoes with brassy swing music blaring and everyone is dancing beneath a canopy of blue and red colored lights.  Men in dark pressed suits hold women in multi colored party dresses as they flow in unison across a mahogany wood-floor. It’s a Monet in slow motion, couples glide in rhythm with the ebb and flow of jazz music.  She is in love for the first time and no one, not even time itself will take this memory from her—-these days memories and reality swim together.

In the recreation room residents are sitting playing dominos while others stare at the big screen TV.  Some sit solo, silently staring out the window into an empty patio with its neatly kept flower gardens. There eyes go through a series of mixed emotions as they question my presence here.  I am a stranger under their waves of isolation and at first the eyes of the occupants gaze at me with an air of curiosity.   Next comes a stare of surprise, “Is someone sick?”.  Then fear, “Has another one passed away last night?”.  Then comes envy, “Look, she has a visitor”.  And finally thankfulness, “Isn’t that nice, someone has made that long dive—–a thousand kisses deep.”

I no longer look into their faces, at this depth they all begin to look the same.  I watch their hands.  Each set of hands tell their own story.  Swollen wrists, knuckles deformed and twisted, age spots, yellowed nails, blue broken veins, tentacles gripping on to little pieces of life, or what is still left of one.  These are the hands that cradled new-born babies, that reassured a scared child in the dark, caressed the fevered brow of the sick, hands that prepared home cooked meals, washed floors, dishes and folded untold loads of laundry, hands that once wielded a hammer to build homes and dreams, fixed what needed fixed, protected what needed protected, hands that played piano in churches and bars, hands that teased, tickled and pleasured a lover, hands that planted roses and canned peaches, hands that money fell through, hands worn callused by physical labor, hands once clinched into fists of anger, hands clasped together in prayer for mercy and grace, hands that composed love letters, baked birthday cakes, taught life lessons, wiped tears away, hands that then as well as now, still reach out towards life.  If eyes are the mirror of the soul, then I believe hands are a reflection of the heart.

We take her for a drive to visit family members.  We share food and reminisce about the old days.  There is much laughter as we recall funny stories from the past.  We fondly remember those that have passed and reaffirm how they shaped and contributed to the family.  Photos are proudly passed around and stories shared about the “going on’s” of our younger ones.   Claudia has a new job, Chris a promotion, Victor’s graduation, Haley’s skiing, Amelia is walking.   Today is golden, for the briefest of moments time stands still for us—-we feel everything—–we can feel one another—-it’s always in the littlest of things that the sacredness of love is shared.

Back at her place beneath the waves, we have a seat at a table in the dinning area.  It’s late November and a drizzle of rain falls from the evening sky.  There is no longer any need for conversation as we sit staring out at the receding sun and silently hold hands.