Jake’s memorial was Saturday.
So many wonderful speakers. People reading Jake’s poems, nothing of their own. I love that. I love that everyone spoke from the place where Jake touched them most, from his poetry. His brother, Joe, said that speaking to us was harder than the eulogy he gave a month ago. I think that that was because unlike his family, this was a group of people who Jake had mentored, taught, befriended—we all greatly admired Jake.
I started that post a year ago.
I couldn’t finish. I still don’t really think I can. It’s odd how strong your brain and body can be in grief. You find yourself avoiding things but not really comprehending why. Certain spaces that once called out as safe, as meditative; become epicenters of pulsing emotion too raw to be handled.
The gaping wounds, despite becoming easier to hide, are none the less exposed. How do you get past it? How do you even begin to put a person that large, as large as Jake is, into perspective? It’s happened for me in small ways, in spurts, starts, and microcosms. It started by reading and re-reading, and reading and re-reading, to the same point, A Year of Magical Thinking. I read it so many times I began to feel the anxiety of nearing The Point where I new I could go no further: where Joan begins to deal with her grief. Quintana is finally stabilizing and she’s alone to deal with John’s belongings. His clothes, shoes, his notes.
I thought of Sarah constantly. I woke up thinking of her on more than one occasion. I had dreams of her as a little girl riding her bike down the sidewalk. Playing on the swings. It’s weird how grief makes you feel guilty, guilty for reaching out or not reaching out. I sent postcards and hoped that she would appreciate the none invasive intrusion. The cards were gentle reminders that I was close by. I knew there were others that she was closer to, who would take up the lion’s share, but alone at night, it isn’t the umbrella that keeps you dry necessarily. It is sometimes something small. A little piece of something with the promise that you aren’t forgotten.
Jake’s 42nd birthday was Sunday. There was a birthday party for him and even though I wasn’t able to attend I had a bourbon for him. For the man, the poet, the husband, the son, the advocate. I used a lot of ice. I remember the first time I had a whiskey with Jake Adam York. It didn’t have a lot of ice. I should’ve ordered a g & t but how often was I going to get this moment? There were a few more times and every one of them is etched in my heart.
The second one was at a release party shortly after the disappearance of Jake’s friend Craig Arnold. I had met Craig in Chicago that same year and I had never seen Jake so upset. A girl had reached up to crack open a bottle of Maker’s Mark that was obviously meant to be out of reach, when Jake suddenly appeared. “No, no, no. This is not for public consumption. I’m drinking this with Craig or alone; either way someone’s getting fucked up.” he said. And he meant it.
Craig’s body was never recovered but he was pronounced dead a short time later. I remember feeling lucky, and being happier to see Jake henceforth because I couldn’t imagine losing him so suddenly. I think Jake also lost a beloved Uncle that same year, or maybe it was the year before, I just remember that year being particularly hard on Jake and it not being fair.
It was my first look at adult grief. Grief that was seemed entirely unmanageable because as a child, grief is still about you; your limited perspective keeps you from the real horror of their loss, it’s like a protective mask shielding your face from the torch.
Now, I just miss the shit out of Jake. I try to talk to him everyday as I walk Aimon to school. Jake always said the morning is when he was most productive, so I like to think about him preparing his space. Getting up, maybe brushing his teeth. Getting a glass of water, maybe coffee or tea next to it. I imagine him looking at the picture he had of himself as a little boy on his desk and meditating on it for 5-10 minutes before finally opening the lid of his laptop and beginning work.
I imagine how Sarah fit into that routine. Maybe she woke up a little bit earlier so she could cuddle him a little more before he was off into his own mind for a couple hours. Maybe there were days she quietly watched, pretending to be asleep. Maybe she walked over and slipped him little notes that said, “I love you” or “I’m leaving now, see you later”, maybe they just said, “Are you hungry?”. I imagine the quiet that probably laid over their home like a quilt, everyday a new patch, with Sarah and Jake’s smiles warm and glowing.
Jake was cremated and his ashes interred, I think, in Alabama. At a reading by Eduardo C. Corral, I got to see Sarah. She was wearing Jake’s wedding ring, couched in another ring that fit her better. Over the course of the reading, I looked over and saw her fiddling with it, and I too listened for the small jingle of it.
I haven’t yet been able to have a coffee or lunch with Sarah, just to talk to her and see how she is. I know the day will come but I also know that we all have our own time in which we do things. Until then I’ll keep sending postcards, to let her know I think of her often.