It is 2:15 in the afternoon, and I am sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool. My mom and dad are having a pool party and everybody is acting silly — wearing grass skirts, dancing, and laughing at everything. Earlier, I was sitting on the edge of the pool looking at my my reflection on the surface of the water. Mom put me there so I could watch the light dance off the surface while she went to get a drink. She knows watching the shimmering light makes me happy, but then I saw my reflection and leaned over to touch it and fell in. I watched with wonder and amazement as the light danced off the sides of the pool and darted across the floor. People splashed about while I calmly sank toward the bottom, hypnotized by the dancing, light. It is so peaceful down here. I am not afraid. I am sixteen months old. This is my first memory.
It’s 8:30 in the morning and I’m crying. I’m crying because my mom won’t wake up and my shoes don’t fit anymore. I’m crying because our housekeeper, Edna, is shouting at me to get dressed so I can walk myself to school. I’m crying because I’m afraid that I’ll get lost on my way to kindergarten again. I’m crying because my mom won’t wake up, and Edna keeps shouting and I don’t want to be late for school because today is show-and-tell, and I have a toy mouse on a string that I can make crawl up my arm that I want to show to everybody. I’m crying because my mom won’t wake up and my shoes don’t fit anymore, and Edna is shouting at me and calling me stupid, telling me that the reason my shoes don’t fit is because they’re on the wrong feet. I’m crying because I don’t understand how my shoes are on the wrong feet when these are the only feet I have.
It is 5:30 in the afternoon. I am lying on the street bleeding; frightened and crying. I am five years old. The sun shines harshly in my eyes as a stranger approaches, asking me what happened. The stranger is asking where I live. Asking who to call. Asking if I’m alright. I am bleeding because I just wiped out on my bicycle. Only it isn’t my bicycle, it belongs to my friend, Blake, who is over playing with me and my brother, Robert. After a while, playing turns into fighting, and Blake and my brother gang up on me and start hitting me with pillows. Blake and Robert are both a couple years older than me, and they always end up just beating me up because I’m little. I’m sick of getting hit with pillows, so I run up to the carport to get away from them and play by myself. In the carport I discover Blake’s bicycle leaning against the back wall. It’s a fancy one with a gears and a hand brake, and I really want to ride it, so I take it out on the road before they can come up and find me. I only learned how to ride a bike without training wheels a couple of weeks ago, so I don’t know anything about flat tires, or how it’s impossible to steer when the front tire doesn’t have any air in it. I wobble unsurely for a couple hundred feet or so, then crash face-first into the pavement. My skin scrapes and burns against the asphalt, my lips split open and bleed. And this strange woman keeps asking me questions I can’t possibly answer through all the sobbing. The sun shines harshly in my eyes.
It’s 10:15 in the morning. I am in second grade, and I am in the principal’s office. I am in trouble because yesterday I kicked a big rubber ball out from underneath a kid named Paul who had been sitting on it in the playground during recess. I was supposed to go to a doctor’s appointment, but I guess my mom couldn’t take me because she was too sleepy, so my Aunt Betty (she’s not really my aunt) came to take me instead. I saw Paul sitting on that red, rubber ball as Aunt Betty and I were headed towards the exit, but he was facing the other way, so he couldn’t see me coming. Out of nowhere I kicked the ball out from underneath him and laughed as I ran to Aunt Betty’s station wagon. I thought it was pretty funny at the time, but it doesn’t seem so funny now that I’m in the principal’s office. He’s been trying to get my mom on the phone all morning but he can’t reach her. I tell him she’s home, but she’s probably just too sleepy to pick up.
It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and I’m going to the grocery store with my grandad to give a quarter to the owner for a pay-back because I stole a pack of gum. It’s the store that my mom has been going to ever since my parents got married and my dad built her a house here in Belvedere. I know everyone who works in the store because they’re all part of a big family. My dad told me they’re Mormons. I don’t know what that means. For some reason all of the kids have names that start with the letter “D.” I keep my head down as I walk through the store because I’m embarrassed and afraid. Grandad is taking me to the back office to talk to the owner, and on the way we pass by the owner’s son, Dennis. He’s my favorite of all the D’s that work here. He’s the one who saw me take the gum, and I feel like crying as we walk past him on the way to the back office. After I stole the gum Dennis told his dad, and his dad called my house to tell my mom what I had done. Mom was upstairs sleeping, so my grandad answered the phone instead. Most days mom spends all afternoon sleeping on the sofa in the library and it’s impossible to wake her up. Grandad lives with us now, because Grandma died last year, so now he’s all alone. I love my grandad, so I am happy that he is the one taking me to the store, but I’m also sad, because I don’t want him to think I’m a bad boy. I don’t want to hear him to say, “I’m very disappointed in you,” like my dad always does. When we get to the back office I quietly say hello to Mr. Hansen, the owner, then reach out with a frightened hand and try to give him the now sweaty quarter. “I’m sorry I took the gum, sir,” I say in a tiny, quavering voice, “Here’s the money for your pay-back.” Mr. Hansen sighs and pats me on the head. “What you did was wrong, Tommy, and you need to know that there’s no such thing as a ‘pay-back.’” He thanks my grandad for bringing me down, then turns, and walks out the door. I am eight years old, and I am so confused.
It’s the middle of a hot, summer afternoon, and I am in a bedroom with Cammie Tyler in Lake Tahoe. I’m ten years old, and she’s eleven. We are here with our families for the summer, and for some reason I can’t stop thinking about her. I’ve known her all my life, but I never paid much attention to her until now. But this summer, something is different. I can’t get her off my mind. I like watching her swim. I like watching her play ping-pong. I like riding bikes with her down to the 7-11. I like making her laugh and trying to make her spit soda out of her nose. We play video games together for hours at the arcade and she usually beats me. That’s fine, I like it when she beats me. She has an older sister named Laura that my brother hangs out with, but I like hanging out with Cammie. She has curly blonde hair thats always kinda messy and she knows a lot of swear words. She’s afraid of bugs, so sometimes I scare her by telling her there’s one in her hair, or crawling in her ear — she screams so loud! Once she even punched me in the arm, but I didn’t mind. Sometimes I pinch her just so she’ll swat me. Today Cammie agreed to come with me into the bedroom so we could see each-other without our clothes on. We’re both wearing our swimsuits, so there isn’t much to take off. We count to three, and at the same time pull our swimsuits off in a fit of nervous excitement. I have never seen a naked girl before. She has never seen a naked boy before. Cammie points down at me and squeals with laughter. I point down at her and cover my mouth to keep from giggling uncontrollably. We’re terrified that somebody is going to come in and find us, so we put our bathing suits back on as fast as we can, but we don’t stop looking at each-other for the rest of the afternoon. I don’t ever want this summer to end.
It’s 11:15 in the morning and I’m happy because I got to miss school today; I hate my 5th grade homeroom teacher, Ms Gardner. My brother, father and I are visiting my mom in a place called Saint Helena, somewhere out in the Napa Valley. Mom’s been here for two weeks and this is the first time we’ve been allowed to visit. I found a quarter in the coin return of the pay phone outside my mom’s room, but the lady who took us up said I can’t keep it. She said it’s there in case any of the patients need to call their families but don’t have any money. My mom looks happy and sad at the same time. My dad just seems sad. I notice that there’s a big jar of M&Ms on the nightstand of the other bed in the room. My mom tells us that that is where her roommate sleeps, and those are her M&Ms. My mom tells us that her roommate is a “chocoholic.” I don’t understand why her roommate can have chocolate if she’s a chocoholic but my mom can’t have alcohol.
It is 3:15 in the afternoon. I am standing on the rocky shore by the bike path with a kid named Miles. We are in the 6th grade together. A group of kids watches from above as I hold a knife on Miles, telling him to give me all his money. It is a pocket knife that looks like a switchblade, but you have to open it the regular way. I force Miles to take off his back pack, then I cut the straps off of it with my knife, demanding he give me all his money. Somehow, I have convinced myself that this is a game, and that I am just kidding. Miles does not know this, and is terrified. Moments ago I was riding my skateboard down the bike path on my way home, and now I am holding a knife on a classmate, telling myself this is all just a joke. A game. This is not a game. I have no idea what is happening. I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know. I don’t know.
It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and I am completely wasted! My friends Chris and Alfred are over and my parents are gone for the day. Yesterday was the last day of 6th grade, so now it is officially summer, and we are drinking beer! There’s tons of it in my parents’ refrigerator because they’re always having parties. I’m sure they wont miss it. Chris keeps running to the fridge, throwing beers off the balcony to us down in the swimming pool, then jumping off the balcony into the pool to join us. It’s a blast! We open the beers and drink them down in one mighty gulp, then throw the cans over the railing onto the side of the cliff. Who cares! But now Alfred is really wasted and runs inside to vomit on my bathroom floor. Why would he run inside to puke when the cliff is right there? When he finishes vomiting he passes out in a pool of his own filth. Chris and I think this is hilarious and decide to piss on him while he’s passed out. This is going to be a great summer!
It’s 8:45 AM and my hands are shaking uncontrollably. My hands are shaking uncontrollably because my brother is trying to kill me. My brother is trying to kill me because I just smashed his computer with a baseball bat. I smashed his computer with a baseball bat because he threw a pot of hot coffee on me. He threw a pot of hot coffee on me because he thought I stole his tennis shorts. He thought I stole his tennis shorts because our housekeeper put them in the wrong drawer and he didn’t bother to actually look for them. He didn’t bother to look for them because whenever something goes wrong in this house, I’m the one to blame. I’m the one to blame because that’s just the way it is. I’ve locked myself in the second floor powder room and my brother is on the other side of the door pounding furiously to get in. He can’t get in because the door is two-inch thick solid wood that opens inward, and there is a row of drawers at the end of the vanity that I’ve pulled open that block the door, making it impossible to open. I know for certain that if my brother gets in he will kill me. My hands are shaking uncontrollably.
It’s nearing 10:00. Almost bed time. It is raining outside and the wind is blowing so hard it is shaking the windows all throughout the house. I am in the kitchen with my father. My brother is in our room working on some sort of D&D quest or battle or something. He plays almost every day with a group of misfit friends that I can’t stand, and when he’s not playing he is planning battles, or creating orcs and wizards, or whatever the hell it is that they do. He is obsessed. Mom has already gone to bed, so it is just me and my dad alone in the kitchen. I have been trying to get up the nerve to talk to him for weeks, but the time never seemed right. We are all alone and he is getting ready to go to bed, so I decide that it is now or never. “Dad,” I say — my voice weak and shaking, my mouth so dry I can barely get the words out, “Mom is drinking again. She begged me not to tell you. She promised that she was going to quit, but she hasn’t , and it’s only getting worse.” There. I said it. My whole body is trembling and I feel like I might throw up. The look on my father’s face is the most pained look of anguish and sorrow that I have ever seen. He stares out the window, watching the rain pound against the glass in violent sheets for what seems like hours, then turns to me and says, “What did you do to make her drink?”
It’s 7:30 PM. Dinnertime. I’m in 7th grade and my dad is dying. His kidneys started failing a couple of years ago and now he’s on dialysis. He is an only child and all his living relatives are dead, so there’s no chance for him to get a kidney transplant. My brother and I aren’t eligible because we’re adopted. Dad has had a lot of complications with his treatment over the past year. He’s lost a ton of weight, he’s aged 100 years, and his arteries keep wearing out and collapsing, so he has to go in for surgery to get them repaired from time to time. Tonight we’re having pizza. Same as last night. And the night before. For some reason the dialysis makes my dad sick and he can’t keep his food down very well. Every so often he stumbles upon a food that agrees with him and that’s all he eats for weeks on end. This month it’s pizza. If you’ve got to have a sick father, things could be worse than having pizza every night. My best friend, Alfred, is over for dinner and a sleepover. My brother is spending the night at a friend’s house. Alfred and I are sitting at the kitchen counter watching television and goofing off. My mom and dad are sitting together at the small kitchen table next to us, pretending to have a normal, pleasant meal together. Mom is slurring her speech and tottering from side to side. Dad is silently chewing and trying to enjoy the show on the television. Suddenly, he leaps up from the table, lunges towards the kitchen sink, and vomits violently as Alfred and I continue to chew our food. I look down at my plate, plug my ears, and hum loudly so as not to hear my father’s retching. I glance over and see Alfred mimicking my father’s retching, laughing with an open mouthful of partially chewed pizza. Mom sips her drink and pretends none of this is happening. Everything is fine. This will all be fine.
It’s 4:30 in the afternoon and I am getting stitches in my chin. I am thirteen, and this is the first time I’ve ever had stitches. My mom brought me along today to see my dad while he’s getting his dialysis treatment. There are two big tubes pumping blood in and out of his arm, filtering it in a big machine. There are a dozen or so of these machines in this room. Dad looks so tired. He smiles weakly as we walk towards him in the crowded ward. I smile back and give him a half-hearted wave, but I am starting to feel woozy. I ask the nurse that is bringing us in where the bathroom is. I think I’m going to be sick. I wake up on the floor moments later surrounded by concerned looking nurses and medical personnel. They are asking me a series of questions that I don’t quite understand. They are asking me my name. They are asking me where I live. They are asking me if I know where I am. They tell me I split my chin open and I need stitches. I ask them what I split my chin on. They tell me I fainted and split it open on the floor. I’m so confused. Was there something sharp on the floor? No, it was just the floor. Did I hit something on the way down? Nope, just the floor. I look up at my dad with confusion in my eyes. He looks back at me with a helpless smile. There is so much blood in this room.
It’s 10:30 in the morning and I’m on a plane to New York City with my mom. I am 13 years old, and I am about to start my first year at boarding school in Lakeville, CT. In the lower left pocket of my Army surplus field coat I have my pet rat, Cinnamon who occasionally peeks her head out. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to have a pet rat on an airplane, so I hide her in my pocket as we go through security, just to be safe. Our flight attendant has seen Cinnamon a couple of times already while bringing my mom drinks, and she doesn’t seem to mind, but I keep her in my pocket anyway. Occasionally I give her a Cheez-It. I’m excited to go to away to school (mostly to get away from my brother), but I’m really nervous as well. I won’t know anyone there, and I’ve never been to Connecticut before, so I’m afraid. That’s why I brought Cinnamon, so I’ll already have a friend when I get there. The flight attendant keeps bringing my mom drinks, I keep feeding my pet rat Cheez-Its, and occasionally we hit a pocket of turbulence so bad that the overhead compartments open and people start to pray. I close my eyes and finally begin to relax.
It is 5:30 in the afternoon. I am in my dorm room at my new boarding school in Pebble Beach. A kid named Keith breathlessly charges into my room and asks, “Dude, do you have any blow?” “No,” I lie, “Sorry, man, I really wish I did.” Keith thinks I might have some blow because he is the school’s resident drug dealer and he believes that I broke into his room while he was out one night and stole a big manilla envelope full of individually wrapped bindles of coke. I have no idea why he suspects me, but he is right. I did steal it. And I’m taking the rest of it home with me back to Marin. I have just finished packing up the last of my things, and my mom is outside waiting for me in her Buick station wagon. I gently punch Keith on the shoulder and shoot him a sideways grin as I walk out the door. “Take it easy,” I tell him as I saunter across the grassy dividing strip towards my mom’s car and prepare myself for the long, unpleasant drive back home. I am 16 years old, I have been here less than a year, and I have been expelled.
It is very, very late. Maybe after 2:00 A.M., and I am in a juvenile detention facility in San Rafael, CA. I am here because I punched a cop. I punched a cop because I was out at a party with my buddies, Dave and Miles, and I got too wasted to drive. I am here because I passed out in the passenger seat of my mom’s convertible Ford Mustang that I’d been driving us in, and Dave got pulled over while driving us home. I am here because the cop couldn’t wake me up in the front seat after Dave failed the field sobriety test, so he pulled me out of the car to try and rouse me. I am here because, apparently, when I am passed out and someone tries to wake me, I throw punches. I am here because, when you are 17 years old, piss drunk, and punch a cop in the face when he tries to wake you up, they send you to a juvenile detention facility.
I am here.
It is just before dusk; the sun sinks slowly towards Mt. Tamalpais across the San Francisco bay. I am in the back yard of my parent’s house with my mom, my brother, and the minister from our local church. The minister is holding a box containing my father’s remains. I kid my brother that it looks like a shoebox, and ask him if he thinks dad will be a pair of Adidas or Nikes in the afterlife? My brother does not think this is funny, and shoots me a look of absolute seething hatred. My mother doesn’t notice any of this, she is busy ignoring us, and the minister, and the entire situation by distractedly pulling dried flower buds off the surrounding foliage. We are scattering my father’s remains in the back yard because my parents built this house together, and my mom thinks this would be a good place to spread him. The minister recites something from the Bible as he removes a handful of ashes and strews them about the terraced hillside above the deck where we are having the service. Only they aren’t really ashes— dad’s remains look more like crushed seashells and coarse sand. In the movies, people’s ashes always look so fine and, well, ash-like, not this gritty, crumbled mess that my father has become. The words that the minister is saying mean nothing to me. I suspect they don’t mean anything to any of us. We aren’t religious — we only go to church for the occasional Christmas or Easter, and that’s mostly because my mom donated a ton of money to have the church's organ restored so she could be a big-shot in the community. What do these words have to do with us? Our situation? Our place in the universe? What comfort can they possibly provide? And what do they have to do with my father? How do they account for his life? His pain? His unwarranted suffering? What do these words have to do with this man who, through some twisted, cosmic joke, ended up getting sick, dying and being scattered by a complete stranger at sunset, surrounded by a family made up of complete strangers to themselves and to one another?
I am seventeen years old, and I have the rest of my life to think about these questions.
Next month my Grandad turns 97! He’ll have lived through the past 17 presidents, all 92 Academy Awards, and every major war since World War II (for which he earned two purple hearts). And yet, I can’t claim much time spent with him during the time our lives have overlapped. Growing up in Kentucky, my family and I were always far from our relatives who were almost all on the East Coast (which resulted in many long car trips to visit). Now, living on the West coast, there’s a lot of uncertainty for when I get to see my extended family. And Grandad is turning 97… I would hate to think… That’s why last summer, when I flew back East for a wedding, I convinced my parents to make a vacation out of it and visit our relatives (particularly Grandad). So, low and behold, when we arrived at my Aunt Regina’s house where he lives, the first thing he said to me:
“So how do you relate?”
Can you blame him? Before this past summer, the last time I saw him was a day and a half in 2016. For the first time ever he flew out to visit my parent’s home in Louisville. I was working a tourism job and only had a few days to be home for Christmas, other than a few meals and showing him how to use the Keurig machine, we didn’t get much time together. I also had hair that didn’t nearly go down to my shoulders back then.
My Dad explained I was his son, his youngest, and while Grandad understood, I’m not sure how much of a difference this made. When showing Grandad how to use the Keurig he told me “You know… I can remember being four years old.. But I can’t remember yesterday.” This was appropriate considering my mom had shown him how to use the Keuring the day before. Hopefully he remembered me at least a little, maybe as a kid running around with the other cousins. Or a handful of occasions I reached out to him. My Dad would try to get us grandkids to call him on Veteran’s Day or his birthday. This was never a burden for us to do, but the older he gets, the harder it seems to be for him.
On this trip we spent the better part of two days with him, along with my Aunt and two cousins that he lives with. He was very quiet throughout, content to sit back and enjoy his O’Douls with his eyes locked in a squint and mouth usually just slightly agape. Occasionally, we would try to engage him in conversation, but this would require a bit of volume raising. He would respond though with his gentle, litely New York accented voice that sometimes faded into a mumble. But mostly he was quiet. His meals were simple, half a burger with not much on it, one or two plain cheese pizzas (although we had ordered Hawaiian per my preference), and always with an O’Douls. He loves his beer, but alcohol is not allowed at this point.
The next day my parents and I took him out to eat at an Irish pub. Again, he stuck to O’Douls. It was when we returned back to my Aunt’s, he really came alive. With a just a dash of enthusiasm sprinkled in his voice he asked:
“Do you want to see my workbench?”
Naturally, I said sure despite not being a handyman myself in the slightest.
“Alright, but you can’t let your Dad steal anything.”
He said this with a bit of a chuckle. My Dad and I followed him to my Aunt’s garage, assuring Grandad I would keep an eye on him. The garage was crowded as my cousins are both mechanically inclined and constantly working on things, but on our right just as we got in was an ancient workbench and a tool cabinet to go along with it. He sat down on a nearby chair and talked about it proudly. I’m not sure what personal mementos he holds onto in his bedroom, but his tools were clearly some of the most important things he held on to.
Perusing through what he had, you could see how he had built this collection over and he lit up talking about it. He loved explaining old tools that were foriegn to me and eventually asked what tools I had. He and my Dad bickered a little about my Dad taking things, but my Dad saying they were his. Eventually, he asked me a little about living in California and what I did for a job. I don’t imagine much of it stuck, but the fact that he asked…
I don’t worry too much about getting older. I’m only 26 and so long as I take care of myself I should have a fair amount of time ahead of me. What I do worry about is what fades away the older you get. The memories that drift and your relationships with people, even family. When I watch movies that have characters with alzhiemers or dementia, I get more scared than watching The Exorcist. The idea of losing so much of yourself is what terrifies me most about being that age. But when your 96 year old granddad shows you his tools in the garage, you see a part of him is still there.
My Grandad at his workbench.
When I think of Easter, my mind immediately flashes back to my not-so-fun times at Catholic School, my best friend Sarah’s birthday and how often her springtime birthday celebrations fell around Easter, and the hard boiled eggs that I would dye with my mom and brother. I remember egg hunts that we did when I was a child and how even one year for Sarah’s birthday, there was an Easter egg hunt themed party! Easter makes me think of spring and pastels, and the feel of warm air after a long, cold, winter. Each year was a surprise, because there weren’t any set traditions. If there’s one lasting tradition, it’s my family.
I feel fortunate to come from a pretty big family. My mom is one of five children, and I am one of nine grandkids on that side. On my dad’s side, I don’t have any first cousins, but many of my dad’s cousins and second cousins are like first cousins or aunts and uncles to me. When I think of growing up, however, I really think about my mom’s family, my grandparents included, and my dad’s sister, her husband, and my nanny (the rest of my dad’s family lives overseas).
I am so thankful for an abundance of holiday memories. The amazing spread that my mom’s family would have on Thanksgiving Day. The non traditional spaghetti we would eat the day after Thanksgiving with my dad’s family. The hand out system that we had for gifts on Christmas Day. It wasn’t a free-for-all, it was all very specific how things were handed out! The voice of the FIFA commentators being on in the background on Boxing Day while we opened presents. Hugging my grandma, grandpa, and nanny tightly on each holiday I spent with them. Looking back now and being so thankful that I did, because there came the time when with or without realizing it, I knew it would be the last holiday that I was spending with them. Reflecting back on those moments now and crying just thinking of how much that I love and miss them, and how I would give absolutely anything just to have one more non-traditional day after Thanksgiving eating spaghetti with my nanny. How I would give anything to hear my grandma’s laugh and see my grandpa’s smile as one of my cousins did something goofy to make them laugh.
While focusing on the older memories, I realized that some of the old have begun to blend with the new. One of my favorite memories was a few years ago, when I took my future husband, Ray, to Christmas with my mom’s side of the family for the first time. It was one of the last Christmas’ that we had with my grandparents. My grandpa had prepared what was essentially a sermon about the Christmas season, and then in the dead silence, my dad opened a beer can, my cousin made a comment, and the next thing I knew, half of us were giggling uncontrollably at the worst possible moment. It’s always the worst when you’re laughing and not supposed to be laughing. I’ll never forget how my dad, Ray and I were laughing so hard that we were crying. The following day, Ray celebrated his first Boxing Day with all of us. Nanny wasn’t there with us anymore, but I still always feel her with me on that day, just like I felt my grandparents with me this past Christmas, the first one that I spent without them. I had tears streaming down my face eating lunch, looking out at an amazing view with Ray in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I realized suddenly that I was already beginning to make new traditions, and just because they weren’t there with me physically, didn’t mean they weren’t with me.
I will always feel some sort of longing for Sarah’s spring birthday in the suburb of Philadelphia anytime it is almost Easter. I will always think of dying hard boiled eggs with my mom and brother when I catch the scent of them after I’ve made them. I will always think of Boxing Days growing up anytime I hear a Premier League game that’s on TV. Christmas Day will always remind me of the times spent with my large, extended family. Holidays will be ever-changing throughout my life, but I feel grateful that each year that my family continues to grow. I believe that the realization of this will help shape how I celebrate holidays in the future and help me be okay with traditions changing, and new traditions being created.
During a recent date, the subject of family came up. I joked, “But what do I know about family? Two of my siblings are dead!” With how pale the poor guy went, I briefly worried he died too! People fear their own laughter upon hearing a sensitive joke about a lost loved one. No one wants to seem offensive or unsympathetic. Let me tell you a secret: if I’m making the joke, it’s okay to laugh. Most people relish humor in a morbid situation.
Humor in a morbid situation. That sounds like something everyone could use right now, yet laughing through the pain feels nearly impossible.
When my little brother, Max, passed away, nothing seemed as funny or as fun as it once was. Growing up with him taught me to laugh at myself and inspired me to share comedy with others. Without him, I didn’t know how to laugh with tears in my eyes. We used to spend hours together disclosing the best dumb jokes we learned at school. One of our absolute favorites went, “You got a mirror in your pocket? ‘Cause I can see myself in your pants.” These memories emit bursts of light in moments I feel overtaken by darkness.
I once showed Max one of my all-time favorite pranks: eat the creamy middle out of an Oreo, replace it with toothpaste, and put the cookie back for some unlucky soul to sink their teeth into (by unlucky soul I meant my grandma, we knew how much she loved Oreos). One April Fools’ Day he did this to an entire box. We giggled at my grandma’s expense upon hearing her angrily squeal at the prank. Being diagnosed with depression gave me the same, unanticipated repugnance as biting into a toothpaste-filled Oreo. I expected a cream-filled inside out of life, so getting past the toothpaste-filled disappointment turned out challenging. Some days I still struggle with acceptance and feel buried beneath the weight of the world.
When Max introduced me to pull-string firecrackers, we decided no door would go without a pull-string tied to its doorknob. We cackled throughout the day as our family jumped at loud “pops!” while they opened doors, immediately yelling “Max! Jackie!” The shock my family felt at each popping door is similar to the jolt I feel in the midst of a depressive state when I realize I’ve been unlike myself. In an instant, a rush of emotions take over. After that flood ripples through me, everything goes numb and leaves me feeling as empty as a used firecracker.
During a visit to Chicago, I bought Max and I matching t-shirts with the words “Do these protons make my mass look big?” I still own that nerdy shirt, though it makes me sad when I see it. I cannot seem to get rid of it because it reminds me of a simpler time filled with immense love and joy. Depression is like that. It’s not something you can get rid of; it lingers with you throughout life. You can shove it in a drawer somewhere, but there it sits. Some days you just have to wear it and live in the numbness.
Depression eats whatever you feed it and spits out disappointment, emptiness, and apathy. Lately, if I feel like I’m drowning in my own storm, guessing what crazy theories Max would have had regarding the current state of the world brings me solace. I still sense his love, and I do the best I can as I try to fly with these broken wings. Little by little, I am mending them while laughing through the tears which accompany growing pains.
All we have right now is what we choose to share with one another, so I decided to share bits of personal anecdotes and metaphors with all of you. Although I flounder at times, I usually radiate laughter, spread joy, and provide some light in the dark. I learned that from Max. So you want some humor in this morbid situation? I’m up for the challenge. I’ve got nothing to lose, half of my siblings are already dead anyway.
“It’s okay, I’ll go by myself.”
I had gone to visit my brother and the girl he was dating in Scottsdale over a long Labor day weekend. I never take long weekends. I’ve been in this constant survival mode with money and making sure my life is balanced with work and friends and experiences. Nevertheless, I drove out for a visit with the promise of red dirt.
My brother and his girlfriend had both been super sick with whatever end of the summer bug was going around, so despite doing their best, they were in the mood to stay in and rest. Besides driving through Arizona, I realized I had never really spent any time there. One of the places I’ve always wanted to visit was Cathedral Rock, one of Earth’s natural vortexes. I left early, took myself to breakfast, and set out to hike.
All I did was plug CATHEDRAL ROCK into my GPS. It took me over an hour to find the actual entrance, but that’s the thing, it’s not written down in any map. True places never are. Eventually I found parking down this long dirt path, walked the 10 minutes to get to the start of the hike. I was shocked to find that the hike itself was barely over a mile. So here we go.
The first leg of the hike was crossing this wide flat ground that was littered with puddles. The deep wet red earth was a perfect contrast to the bright blue sky with fluffy clouds. I don’t think I’ve really ever appreciated the color turquoise until that day. It’s such a bright and happy color out in nature.
Soon I reached the base. While it may be a mile hike, it’s almost all vertical. Straight on up. I can do this, I thought, as I watched a fearless child climb with ease. So up I went, one step at a time.
As I climbed I thought of all the things I had done in my life that were more difficult than this one mile hike. I thought about the day I decided to be an actor, and how it took me two years and ten auditions in my hometown before I got cast in my first play. I could have easily given up, but I kept moving forward. I thought about the decision to end my marriage, and how long it had taken me to let go. The three and a half years I spent in LA without a car. How I learned to drive on the opposite side of the road in Ireland to take myself to what is now my favorite place in the whole world. All of those things, all my good choices, my bad choices, how they all had led me here to this day.
I reached the first landing, the sky in Sedona seems to stretch out for forever. I sat for a few minutes, knowing I’d barely gotten half way there. After a few minutes of solitude, a young couple in their 20’s reached where I was. She was not happy having to have been dragged outdoors. I could only stand a few moments of their fight. She wanted to head back down, he never got to do anything he wanted. So I continued onward.
Up and up and up I climbed, slipping only once. I made it to the second landing. The sky seemed even bigger there. I could see the third landing wasn’t so far away. My gaze found the multiple hand carved stairs into the rock that would take me there. I was so close.
When I reached the top, I burst into tears. I’d never been so high up anywhere on earth. The view was simply spectacular. There’s a certain energy when you’re up that high I can’t explain. It’s like you can feel nature coursing through your veins. Like I can take off and fly out into the open air.
I sat for two hours and just enjoyed the view. Watching people come and go. Some sat for a while. Some for only a few minutes.
Finally, it was time to go, as I still had to drive home to LA.
As I came down the various landings, I reached the same couple who was still sitting on that first landing. I could tell she had cried. They must have had a huge fight. He saw me pass them.
“Did you make it to the top?” He asked.
“Yes," I replied.
“By yourself?” She asked.
“Was it worth it?”
“I dunno, you’ll have to see for yourself.”
All this time I have been running far away from you when I should’ve given you a chance. To think I wasted so many years thinking I was better off without you... (to be clear, I am speaking about the Gym, particularly running).
It all started with an instagram story request. A friend of mine was interested in returning to the gym, and was feeling out any potential gym buddies to tag along. I remember laying down in my bed, and thinking ‘maybe I could go a couple of times so she has some company. We eventually worked out together one day, then it turned to two days a week, then three days, and every week we would make an effort to attend. I was initially very set in my ways of not really wanting to push myself, and I couldn’t see the potential of losing the weight. A part of me was running away from changing. It felt like if I were to succumb to bettering myself, it would go against everything I’ve come to know as a part of me. I didn’t want to look better because if people couldn’t see who I was beyond my weight, then why do them a favor?
I felt the way I was could never truly change, no matter what I would do. How wrong I truly was because then I began to notice my body was changing. The clothes in my closet were becoming too baggy. When I would wear them and look in the mirror, I personally looked so out of place. I then purchased new clothes I never thought I could fit into. The difference was staggering, my jaw just dropped and I felt like crying. This was the motivation I need to keep going and seeing how far I could take this.
After a while, it just became normal to workout on my own, and I started to feel my body actually needing to go. I made it a point to go if I happened to have any free time. I began to sleep better, walking up stairs was no longer a chore, and I could keep up with a cycling class my friend Kate was teaching. It is now 2020, and I have developed my own routine working out, which now includes running on the treadmill. I never thought I could appreciate and love the feeling of running, or jogging, or sprinting. It is probably the closest to feeling like I’m in flight that I’ll ever experience. Feeling so fast makes me feel invincible, and I discover all this deep rooted confidence I never thought I could have. Not only does my body feel so alive, but my soul feels invigorated. Any stress from my days are flooded out of my body. My mind is clear, and free from all the negative energy I’ve stored up. I feel so proud of the amount of work and time I put in. This is going to continue to be an on-going thing, so if anybody ever needs a workout buddy, I’ll be there ready to sweat out the pain with you.
I’ve always wondered what life might have been like if I had an older brother. Sure, I’ve got a younger brother. I’ve even got a younger sister AND an older sister. But there’s something about having an older brother that always intrigued me and made me wonder what it might be like. I imagined him as someone who would have protected me from all the bullies at school, and been the first one to ask me who he was beating up when I came home crying. He would have hugged me close when a boy broke my heart, telling me that that boy didn’t deserve me anyways. He would have teased me relentlessly, making me mad or annoyed, but I would have learned to just dish it back and instead of cat fights, we probably would have wrestled it out, probably giving me a few more broken bones than what my current count is. I think it would have made me stronger, mentally, emotionally and definitely physically.
Having an older would have definitely been different, but just how different? I’m not sure. Maybe I wouldn’t have turned out so emotional, crying at the drop of a hat. I might have known more of how to deal with boys and how they act, how to interact with them, etc. I might have learned earlier on how to stand up for myself, whether it was because I had to stand up to him or he taught me how to stand up to people. Having an older brother probably would have been great, and my siblings probably think the same thing. After all, we all had someone we referred to as an “older brother” at some point in our lives.
There are times I remember that he would have helped with, like that moment when my older sister had a dilemma with boys and didn’t know what to do when two boys liked her at once. Or when one of them broke her heart, she would have turned to him instead of me for comfort, and told her that he didn’t deserve her anyways. When either of my sisters came home crying, I would pull them into a huge bear hug and ask who I needed to beat up, but he could have done that. Teasing my siblings about their crushes and their quirks would always get a reaction out of them and I would always crack a smug grin and run away before they could catch me and pay me back. Seems like something he would have done... We would wrestle with our dad and if you ever asked my little brother who the strongest person in our family was, it was always me before my dad, without hesitation. An older brother might have been competition in that category. I don’t think I would have been the one my little brother came to for girl issues or other problems he might have had. My sister wouldn’t have come to me when she had issues with other girls being mean to her. My strong bear hugs would have been overlooked and not as valued if our big brother were always there to provide them.
I guess, looking at it now, I kind of took on the role of what I always imagined a big brother to be like. Being the middle sister was so difficult for me, feeling neglected and invisible for most of my life, thinking nobody really cared about me. But knowing that I could bring the comfort that I did to my siblings brings me joy to this day. I made sure, and still try to make sure, that my siblings never felt what I felt. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my siblings. Being the one they come to for support and advice is something I’ve valued for all of my life, I just didn’t realize it until recently. They mean so much to me and I know they would do anything for me as well. So as many times I wished I had an older brother to take care of my siblings and I, I am so glad I get to be the one who took care of my siblings.
I’m a hopeless procrastinator. When I was given the subject for this post (the assignment was “time”) I literally had months to complete it. Here it is the night before my deadline and I still haven’t written anything. You should feel cheated. I should be ashamed. And I am. I had all the time in the world to write something good. To write something meaningful. To write something, dare I say, important? Instead, I painted myself into a corner with time. I boxed myself in. I vastly limited my possibilities by eliminating the ability to explore. But maybe that’s what procrastination really is; a forced narrowing of one’s options when faced with too many possibilities.
When I was in college (I was an English major) I would often be given an assignment with a deadline that was weeks, and sometimes even over a month away, yet I can’t think of a single instance where I was not up all night the evening before my assignment was due, furiously scrambling to complete the project. And I don’t mean just the writing itself—I mean the narrowing of my topic, the research involved, the gathering of my thoughts, and the actual writing of my essay were more often than not executed in one outlandish sprint of cognitive and creative output that would leave me simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated when I had finished (usually minutes before I had to leave for class).
One particularly painful example of my procrastination while I was in college always comes to mind. It was my junior year at UC Berkeley and I was enrolled in a world literature course. For some unknown reason I decided to write an essay about the novel Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya. For the life of me, I can’t remember a single thing about the book (or anything that I wrote for that matter), but I clearly remember getting my essay back after my graduate student instructor, George, had read it, only to find it covered in red pen marks. I’m not claiming that I was a perfect student, or that my writing was always flawless, but over the years I had become fairly good at writing essays on the fly, and I was not accustomed to seeing them returned covered in corrections. Upon closer inspection I discovered the source of most of the angry pen strokes—I had been in such a rush to complete the essay that I hadn’t bothered to proof read it for grammar, spelling or punctuation (and I was arrogant enough at the time to believe that I didn’t need to proof-read for content). To my absolute horror I realized that in my haste I hadn’t caught the fact that my spell-checker had automatically replaced the name “Anaya” with the word “annoy.” To this day, the only comment I can actually remember George writing on my essay (although I’m sure he had plenty more to say) was “yes, it is annoying!” after the word “annoy” appeared for the 10th or so time.
* * *
On a lark, I did a Google search for the term “procrastination” and discovered some interesting results. According to Psychology Today, “perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.” Holy shit! This is me to a T! Or is it? While I do consider myself somewhat of a perfectionist, I don’t feel as if the reason I put off tasks is merely due to some unconscious fear of not living up to my own expectations. But then the article goes on to say, “many procrastinators may contend that they perform better under pressure, but research shows that is not the case; more often than not that's their way of justifying putting things off.” This harkens back to my original thought, that by limiting my options and eliminating the luxury of time, I am somehow forced into performing. The problem with this scenario, as we have seen, is that I definitely do not excel under pressure. I like to tell myself that I perform better under pressure, but that’s really just the lie I tell myself when I’ve taken all the other options off the table and have forced myself to perform under the tightest of constraints. I suppose what I am really doing is allowing myself the ability to say, “Well, the work that I did was pretty great considering I only had one day to do it,” or some such bullshit. But deep down I know that what I’m really saying to myself is “You’re a fucking coward and you’re too afraid to give yourself ample time to do the work because you’re scared that it won’t be that good without the artificial barriers you’ve constructed for yourself.”
However, as it turns out, the reason people procrastinate is not so cut-and-dry. According to the article, thrill-seekers (that’s me!) tend to procrastinate in order to “reap a euphoric rush” by completing a task by the skin of their teeth. And truly, what is more exhilarating that narrowly avoiding disaster? Imagine how alive one must feel when the parachute that has failed to open suddenly bursts forth form its pack and arrests the skydiver’s horrifying plummet towards certain death? Well, as it turns out, it feels fucking amazing! That very thing happened to me the first time I went skydiving—I was jumping solo (as opposed to being strapped to an instructor), and my chute was supposed to deploy via a static line attached to the airplane, but when the chute came out of my pack it was hopelessly tangled and did not deploy until I had fallen a few hundred feet in a state of horror and confusion. Luckily I did not panic and I remembered my training, so I was able to “rock the toggles” (super cool parachuting lingo!) and get it to deploy. The instant it opened my horrifying plummet was transformed into an exhilarating, yet gentle downward journey towards terra firma. The feeling of narrowly escaping death was absolutely invigorating and I couldn’t wait to go back up and jump again. But is this really the same sensation that thrill seekers get when putting off a task until the last possible moment? Not by a long shot. The sensation is more one of relief that the task is finally finished than a “euphoric rush” akin to narrowly cheating death.
Which brings me to my next point. According to an article in The New York Times, procrastination is really about “managing negative moods” associated with a given task. In a study conducted in 2013, researchers determined that procrastination is “the primacy of short-term mood repair...over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” In other words, one is privileging the immediate sense of relief one gets from putting off a task over the possibility of a future sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, or relief that will surely result from finally tackling the long put-off endeavor. In essence, what we’re really doing when we are procrastinating is saying, “fuck you, future-me, present-me is anxious/uncomfortable/stressed out about this thing we have to do, so we’re gonna put it off and make it your problem!” Of course, all this does is compound the negative associations we have with the task, and increases our sense of guilt, shame, and anxiety we get by avoiding the task. This, in turn, creates a snowball effect—the longer we put off a task the more unpleasant it becomes because of the sense of anxiety and self-loathing we experience by putting it off in the first place. So in order to experience some relief from these negative feelings, we put the task off even further. And so on, and so on. To quote Dr. Fuschia Sirois from the aforementioned New York Times article, “the thoughts we have about procrastination typically exacerbate our distress and stress, which contribute to further procrastination.” It is truly a vicious cycle.
And then, as I continued my journey down the procrastination rabbit hole (who knew that looking up the word “procrastinate” was a way to procrastinate in itself?) I came across this savory nugget: according to recent studies, on a neural level we perceive our future selves as complete strangers more than a continuation of our familiar, everyday selves. When we procrastinate, our brains literally think that the discomfort we are creating for our future selves belongs to someone else!!! So It makes all the sense in the world from a neurological perspective to say, “fuck that stranger in the future, I’m uncomfortable in the here-and-now.” Of course, this is completely irrational and only complicates matters further. However, because of the way we’re wired, the “threat detector” area of our brains known as the amygdala views tasks that make us anxious, uncomfortable or stressed out as actual threats to our existence. So even if we realize on an intellectual level that putting off a task is only going to cause us more stress and discomfort, we are hard-wired to remove the immediate threat regardless of future consequences. This is known as “amygdala hijack,” and even though we realize that it is happening, and are aware of the fact that it is completely irrational, we are somehow helpless in its unyielding grasp.
So in the end, what does all of this really mean? It means that even though a couple months ago I was thrilled at the prospect of writing a piece about “time” for the It’s Personal blog, the irrational, stress-avoidance mechanism of my brain instantly kicked in, and for a variety of reasons, prevented me from embarking on something that I had actually been looking forward to. I was truly eager to write about my personal relationship with time—how I see it as both the most overwhelming and horribly destructive force in the universe, and at the same time, a truly bizarre concept that I don’t actually believe in on the deepest intellectual level (I have this crazy idea that the entire history of the universe, some 14 billion years or so, is actually an illusion and everything that has ever happened, is happening, or will ever happen is happening right now, in this eternal instant). I wanted to be able to explain how only yesterday I was a little boy watching sailboats race on the San Francisco bay, and today I am somehow a middle aged man occasionally overwhelmed by the simple act of existence. I wanted to explore the idea of the ever-divisible present (take the smallest known increment of time, then halve it)—I wanted to discuss my notion that time and space are precisely the same thing (and no, I don’t mean space-time), and that reality is just an illusion—I wanted to discuss the idea of an infinity that simultaneously spreads outward and inward, expanding in both directions so that the concepts of “outward” and “inward” are rendered meaningless— but the hard-wired stress-avoidance mechanism in my primitive, sluggish ape-brain took over and now all I’ve got is a semi-coherent, rambling piece about my lifelong struggle with procrastination. At least “future me” can rest easy now.
Two of my best friends since high school, Joe and Noah, have a connection that fascinates me. Despite all of us going to the same school for four years their worlds never quite overlapped (outside of yours truly). Joe had a focus of math and science classes and was a cross country runner. Noah was a creative type, playing in a number of bands and enrolled in theater and creative writing classes. But when their paths did cross, they got along famously. The two of them could go on about movies, music, and more with such a genuine interest and respect for one another. At one of my birthdays, they played ping pong continuously for hours and chatting throughout. For months after they would both tell me how much fun they had had that night. To this day, if I bring one up around the other there is an apparent fondness for each other. If you ask me, I think they have a crush on one another.
I say “I think” because both of them are straight, so it wouldn’t be romantic (presumably). This begs the question though, does a crush have to be romantic? When most people think of crush, its usually googily eyes, big stupid smile, and hearts popping up around your head (the typical Charlie Brown lovestruck look). A crush seems to be a romantic aspiration. Someone you want to be with but maybe can’t. Whether they’re dating someone else, you’re not around them enough, or they are a celebrity and you spent that past three years working as a tour guide (come on Rooney Mara, what does Joaquin Phoenix have that I- oh right, the oscar... and massive amounts of talent). But do crushes have to be romantic? If not, how should they be defined?
For some time, whenever I spoke to Noah and Joe about the other, the fondness grew to: “I should really reach out to him. He’s such a good dude.” Or something to that extent. Any time I heard this, I said “You should!” They’re great people, I love them both, and if they’re both such good friends with me, they would be great friends together. Am I crazy?! Cut the middle man (says the middle man)! And yet, it has never happened. They went to different colleges in different states so naturally there’s a challenge. But we share a hometown… I see both of them every holiday season. Come on Joe, Noah, be friends already!
A certain longing is key to a crush. You see something in someone and you just want to be around them more to find out what it is. That doesn’t have to be romantic though. Often, it’s something physically attractive, but isn’t that just lust? Like if you see someone you’re attracted to from across the room, you wouldn’t call that a crush right away. A crush involves a little more personality, or character. You have to know someone a little bit for that crush to develop. Think back to crushes you’ve had. It’s not just how they look, it’s what they do and say too. There is affection there, but is that romance?
I may just be splitting hairs here, but must a crush be limited to school days of like-liking someone. Noah and Joe have this certain compatibility that they’ve experienced in too small of doses. Neither want to date each other, but they see something in one another that they respect and admire. Someone once told me a crush challenges you, and that it’s that being challenged that draws you to them. This friend was describing not only how she connected with her husband but also people she grew close to in college. Maybe it’s precisely that Noah and Joe are from such seemingly different worlds that the differences just to more to enhance the common ground they do have.
I wonder if things had worked out differently, we went to a smaller school, they were in more classes together, they hung out socially more, they could have had a great friendship that would last to this day. But maybe crushes are unrequited by nature. For it to truly be a crush it has to be from a distance. I know I’ve had a lot of crushes that haven’t panned out (really Rooney, the Joker?!) But I’m still rooting for this one.
Can I tell a romantic gesture to politely fuck off?
If I had had the vocabulary, that’s what I would have been thinking on Valentine’s Day in 6th grade. Instead, I stared at my desk in silence, eyeing the ticking time-bomb that sat on top of it: a small, cardboard purse full of chocolates. A quick glance around the room - no other desk had it. In preteen-boy chicken-scratch writing, it read: From - Jack. That alone caused me no grief. Jack did not, in neither name nor personhood, make me feel anything. No, I was welcomed into a special hell because that it said my own name. And that’s what made my ribs crack open and my heart drop to the soles of my etnies. I did not want this. I did not want to deal with this. I did not want to acknowledge it. But the bell to start class was moments from ringing out, and I was going to have to confront this.
And so I did the very, very brave thing. I took that cardboard purse and shoved it in the front zipper of my Jansport and left it there for 3 years.
What was I supposed to do? I hadn’t been trained to rebuff! What movies and TV had been trying to train me to do was acknowledge the bravery of boys for putting their precious hearts on the line...for loooooove.
But what if I didn’t care? Nobody taught me to say no. And so I didn’t. I didn’t say anything. I ignored him and the stupid purse and the bad chocolates entirely. It wasn’t until I was cleaning out that backpack in high school to prepare for a bad and boujee North Face upgrade that I remembered it ever happened. I reminisced on the moment, solidifying it as a (terrible) lesson learned: wow, just ignoring a problem seems to work pretty well!
GIve me some credit though, I didn’t always just ignore unwanted romantic gestures. A few years later, I learned to outright deny them!
It was 8th grade. Math class. The last semester before we upgraded to full-fledged high school ballers. My desk was sandwiched between my best friend Grace and a guy I had known for 8 years, Adam. It was fun. We goofed constantly and learned geometry occasionally. With only 3 months left until summer, I felt like I had it made. Until Adam leaned to me one day in class and whispered: “Hey. Guess what?”
I whispered back: “What?”
Adam smiled: “I like you.”
Damn it. Our friendship flashed before my eyes and I saw it all: laughter, the pythagorean theorem. The only thing I didn’t see? A single moment that felt like I had exuded or implied any sort of romantic or flirtatious vibe. Yet here we were - again I was forced to confront something that I did not want. But I was a few years older now, and a few years wiser. So I didn’t just shove Adam in my backpack and leave him in there for 3 years.
I did the even braver thing. I took a breath, looked him in the eyes, and said: “No, you don’t.”
His smile faded and he said “Oh uh...yeah, you’re right, I don’t.”
And then I ignored him for the 3 months until we graduated and parted ways forever.
Okay, the whole ignoring-him-for-3-months thing didn’t exactly fill me with pride, but I understand it. I didn’t know that I was allowed to say no. I did what I could to protect myself in the best way I knew how, as ill-equipped as I was. But the older I got, the more I started to see my experience reflected back at me. I saw women saying no to things they didn’t want. I tried it. It felt good and it felt right. I said no to school dances that expected dates. I said no to men who asked me out while I was at work. And once I said a big ol’ no to alcohol for good, gosh, saying no to things got even easier.
Of course, there are moments when I wish I had said no. Moments I wish I could re-live, re-work, undo. But when I think of that Valentine’s Day in 6th grade, I don’t cringe anymore. I laugh. Because it’s hilarious. So what if I didn’t know how to say no to a boy I’d known since I was 5 after he put a dumb chocolate-filled paper purse on my desk? That’s okay. I got there eventually.