1. This past week, an acquaintance, a Facebook friend with whom I’d spoken to on the phone and engaged with on Facebook in the polite ways you engage with folks you’ve never met in real life, was murdered. A victim of stalking and domestic violence. She is survived by her young son. I don’t know how to respond to that.
2. Back in the early 1980s, my paternal grandmother was reunited with a sister from whom she had been separated since childhood, when the sister was an infant. So they had never really met. Then, sixty-five years later, they did. I vaguely remember photographs taken in front of the restaurant my parents managed at the time. I don’t know if they kept in touch after that.
3. A student of mine from 2004 became my friend on Facebook not long after our student-teacher relationship was over. We never hung out outside the classroom, but we kept in touch, commenting on each other’s posts, “like”ing this and that. One year I dropped him a line wishing him a happy birthday. A few days later, I received a note from his roommate that he had passed away. What else to say?
4. In late 2010, I began seeing a therapist/counselor about my various personal problems. He was a retired attorney and self-appointed addiction expert and a hell of a nice guy. I met with him once a week and we ended up talking about movies a lot of the time. One Friday evening, I was at Stacey’s house, visiting E., doing our normal dinner and bedtime routine when my phone rang. The number was unfamiliar, but for some reason I answered it. It was my therapist’s wife, calling to inform me that just two hours earlier, Brad had passed away, so our appointment was canceled. She was just going through his appointment book, calling people, one by one. I think it was helping her to maintain, or maybe she was still in shock. She sounded both very calm and very devastated. Turns out he spotted a young man trying to burglarize a car (not his car) outside his office building. He yelled at the man, sprinted down the stairs, and chased the burglar down an alley, while dialing the police during his pursuit. By the time the police arrived a few minutes later, they found Brad, lying in the alley, phone in hand, dead from a sudden heart attack.
5. I think about death every day but am not morose.
6. My mother mentioned to me something the other day that while, I guess I knew, I had never thought about. She has living siblings she has never met. They’re in their 60s. It’s hard to know what to make of this. Mostly it makes me think of my daughter and me, the absent father, and wonder if E. will someday find herself in the same position, with a ghost family, thousands of miles and decades away.
7. The only thing I really know about my maternal grandfather (mom’s bio dad, not the man I called grandpa, who died when I was 12, and though who never adopted my mother, was in every way her father) is that he was from Mexico. And I know his name: Alfredo Jauregui. He spelled his name differently than my mother did. He enlisted in the US Army in the spring of 1945, literally a few weeks before the war in Europe ended. He was discharged in the fall of the same year. He had spent less than a year in the Army. Not long after, he married my grandmother. Soon after came my aunt Josephine (whom I never met, who died before my birth in a car accident of the sort that could only have happened in the early 1970s), and then ten months later, my mother. The things I know about my grandfather I only know because I found his DD-214 and his marriage license in a brown grocery bag in the spare room of my parents’ house.
8. I know even less about my paternal grandfather–just that he died, alcohol-related, and my dad took leave from the Navy to be with him before his death. He isn’t spoken of much, but I’ve developed a mythology around him. He is a distant creature in a Ken Kesey novel never written. I’ve developed a mythology around all my dead relatives, I guess.
9. According to things I read, and what I see on the internet, Dia de los Muertos is a big deal in “Latin culture” or “Chicano culture.” I didn’t receive much of this kind of culture as a youth. I primarily think that what I know of Mexicanness involves alternately devout and nominal Catholicism and certain foods. It involves the way my grandmother speaks English in her thick accent, even after 60 years living in rural Oregon, and the way I struggle to understand the most basic Spanish conversations. When I see faces painted in the Day of the Dead fashion, and skulls in the form of breads and candies, I think not of my cultural heritage, but of The Misfits.
10. I read a poem this week imagining death, or the end, as a boy in a video arcade. It imagines death as a banality. As it is.
11. When thinking about death, it’s good to turn to John Donne, not so much the poems, but the sermons. That’s some serious heavy heart and soulwork. Some shit, man.
12. A book that was important to me when I was a baby poet was Brenda Hillman’s Death Tractates. It still is, though I haven’t read it in awhile. There was a time, not long ago, when I sold most of my books, poetry included, for pocket change, for beer money, for whatever.
13. If the Rapture were to come (such a thing to believe!), I would most definitely be left behind. I think I’d appreciate the more spacious Earth, less stuffy, better parking. As it is, I’m here, on a planet full of people, waiting to die, and dying day by day. Like all my neighbors.