This weekend was one of emotional extremes, to put it mildly. It was fun and confusing and exciting and sad, and, in a word, mrrrrrrrg?
I went to Chicago to help Kevin shoot a movie. We ended up only shooting for a day, and I had a lot of time to spend with my friends. But I'll get to that.
On Friday morning I woke up, warm and cozy in Jack's spare room, and stared out the window at the rain for a long time. As I watched the rain began to turn to snow, and by the time I left the house it was flat out snowing. I had been hoping for snow, and I was excited to get it. I had lunch with Matt, Phil, Jack, and Tim at Panera, and then walked to campus for loadout at the cage with Kevin. While I waited around for him I checked the Jacobson's medical blog. That morning Jill, Natalie and Alec's mom, had posted that "With as much certainty as any human can say, [Ken] is very close to the end of his life... We like to think that he can hear us when we are gathered in his room talking, or laughing, or playing music...or when we get close and talk in his ear. While he's with us we can still hold his hand and touch him and let him know how much he is loved." I went for a long walk around the lakefill- I don't like crying in front of people. The weather was miserable, with driving wind blowing the snow into my face and the steely gray waves of the lake crashing against the rocks like something out of a Romantic painting. My jeans were soaked through and my fingers went numb, but it felt good to be outside and able to think. It was the sort of day you might expect someone to die.
Ken died the next morning at 6am, on Natalie's 10th birthday, of complications related to his second stem cell transplant-- namely pneumonia. I had been worried that this would happen all week long, as I read the increasingly worrisome posts on their website. Please don't let him die on Saturday, I thought over and over again, talking to who knows what but some sort of natural force that drives the tide of life and death. Please let Nat have one last birthday with her dad. But when it happened, their family proved once again how amazing they are: they let the day be about Natalie, about celebrating her birthday and not dwelling on the awful event that had ocurred. Nat had her bowling/ice cream/make-up/sleepover party and was surrounded by her friends. I think in the future her birthday will be about celebrating not only her life but her dad's life as well and everything that they meant to each other.
I walked up to their house today to see everyone. I was a little concerned that I didn't really belong there, at such a difficult time, because I wasn't family and I couldn't really do anything concrete to help out. I never know what to say about death, because "I'm sorry" feels so unnecessary and insufficient. It seemed, though, that Jill and the kids did want me to come, and I hope I at least gave Jill some time to get things done this morning. At the very least, I passed on a few hugs all the way from Camilla in Norway. The kids and I played Mall Madness, a game that has gotten quite the hi-tech makeover since I was a kid, and went on a nature walk to collect things. We came back with a surprising array of wintery nature: feathers and ivy and twigs and rocks, pine needles and tubers and even a sizeable clump of dirt. We played Alec's "name an animal for every letter" game, and he and I had a nice healthy debate about whether "caviar" qualifies as an animal. I saw new toys, books, clothing... the kids are doing pretty well, all things considered. Alec seemed a lot angrier than he usually is; little things would frustrate him or upset him. He didn't mention his dad at all, except when Natalie brought him up. Nat seems to be absorbing all the changes in her life in her quiet, observant way. She mentioned two or three times how much she missed her dad, and was upset about an autograph book she has that he had never signed, and a present she was making that she hadn't given to him. I told her to make a box where she could keep presents for her dad, and she seemed to like that idea. They both seemed more subdued than usual, although we did have our share of laughs and giggles. I didn't get to talk to Jill very much, unfortunately; she was busy writing an obituary and had a few friends staying with them. She seemed tired and mentioned that the whole thing was very surreal, and it was; it was surreal even for me to be there and think that Ken was no longer around. I can't even imagine how it must feel for them.
So that was the bad part of the weekend.
The good part was the absolute cornucopia of friends I saw, and while I didn't get to spend enough time with any of them, it's always good to see someone for yourself and do a mental check on how they're doing. Besides the obvious Jack, Tim, Kevin, and Matt, I saw (**warning LONG LIST**): KATE (!! she was there visiting Ben, her boyfriend, which was a gigundo surprise), Annie, Kat, Sip, Erik, Jim, Brian Perkinson, Brian Cagle, Pedro, Phil, Leo, Jackie, Nathan (who is coming to the Bay Area for 6 months! hurray!), Ian Bennett, Paul Kruse, Adam Price, Jen Howell, Kevin's friend Sean, Adam Sobel, and probably others that I have forgotten. On Friday night Jack, Tim, Kat, Sip, Annie and I went on an "adventure" that began as a trip to the (infamous) Fish Keg on Howard to be followed by Howard Street bar hopping, and ended up as what I shall now refer to as the "IHOPleaf night," consisting of dinner at IHOP and drinks at the Hopleaf in Andersonville. It was completely fabulous to see Kat and Annie and Sip, because I do not see them often. On Sunday I went to lunch with Kate and Ben and Tim and Sip, and then to see Brokeback Mountain again with Kate and Ben (and yes, it totally holds up upon second-viewing). There wasn't a whole lot of time to actually talk to Kate, but it was nice to see her anyway.
On Sunday night I had dinner with Kevin and Jack, who were both more interested in the Bears game than in any sort of conversation, but what can you do. Jack and I went to Tim's afterward to watch the most recent, most amazing episode of Arrested Development and then Tim and I hung out for two hours talking about movie minutae, which was grand. Sip and Jim came over to say hi and they gave me a ride back to Jack's, and then Jack and I stayed up late talking too. So, like I said, I didn't get to spend nearly enough time with any one person, but it's also a hell of a lot better than not seeing your friends at all. Now I just have to start counting the days until I can see them all again.
The one productive thing about the weekend, in terms of the big picture of my life, was that I realized just how much I frickin' miss film stuff. No one in my day-to-day life could ever be heard saying something like "the tapes were drop-frame but the lab retimed the color bars and we just had to re-online," as I heard Kevin said to me on Thursday when he picked me up. Hearing something like that is like a bizarre breath of fresh air to me, and I started thinking about it, and I think that this is why I don't enjoy Pacific Primary as much as I might: there's nothing challenging for me, but moreover, everyone speaks a different language than I do, the language of Early Childhood. Not that I can only speak Filmspeak, but I'm certainly more fluent in it. It's just nice to kick back and talk shop with Kevin or someone for awhile, nice to discuss film things with Tim and Jack. One of the most jolting things about coming home from Evanston was that now, when I go to a movie with someone, their follow-up commentary usually consists of something like "Well, that was good." There's no outrage at the audacity of a director to use a Vertigo shot, no pretentious theories put forward, not even a word about an out of focus shot or two. I miss that, and I want it back. Is that strange?
Speaking of films, and then I'll actually shut up: I watched Brian Cagle's thesis, Ruthie, which is the film I worked on when we all went to Tennessee. It was pretty awful. I mean, it looked great. The stuff Kevin shot was dead-on exactly what he was going for, and I'm awfully proud of him for it. Cagle shot a few inserts, and they were pretty bad, but hopefully not too noticeable. The bad things about it were, in order of most atrocious: 1) the editing, 2) the sound design, and 3) the acting. Now, I knew the actors weren't great when we were making the damn thing, but I was surprised how bad they came across on screen. And the editing! You'd think someone who'd been in grad school for two and a half years would pick up on at least some sort of editing savvy, but I guess not. I hope it wasn't his final cut, but it definitely was the one he took to Chattanooga to show. He should have had someone else edit it, but oh well.
OK, well, millions of words later, I'm going to bed. Back to work tomorrow? How about I get on a plane and go somewhere again? I have this awful travel bug. Maybe South Africa?